The Rationale

The primary role of marketing is to create demand in the market for specific products and services. Advertising plays a prominent role in the marketing mix, and can take many forms:  print, broadcast and digital media (including web ads, targeted search engine ads, and social media ads), display advertising in blogs, along with newsletters, forums, and content-rich sites. To create demand using advertising, identifying the audience is the first critical step. Then, get their attention. Engage with a relevant message. Finally, offer a path to satisfy their curiosity.

We know developers are a deeply skeptical technical audience. So what makes a good developer ad?

Messaging for the Developer Audience

Advertising falls under the promotion category in the marketing mix, and to target your advertising, you need to make sure you clearly identify unique personas in your developer audience. Begin every advertising effort by answering the question “Who are we messaging to?”

In developer-to-developer (D2D) communities, there are a number of decision-makers which make up the target audience, so you must understand the personas of the people who purchase or influence purchases in your developer community. You should also factor in the developer’s journey, because you will have to determine which ads to insert and at which inflection points along the way.

Put In the Effort

It’s important to create high-quality advertising because advertising should be engaging, memorable, and should reflect the quality of your brand image. Ineffective advertising is inefficient, and will show up in your metrics in low impressions or low click-through rates. Advertising is highly visible. If you’re going to put effort into advertising, put forward your best efforts and ideas.

Advertising and Developer Expectations

Good advertising copy should be simple, true, and memorable. It should connect with the developer, and be capable of holding the developer’s attention. It should have a logo, contact information, and a clear call to action. The call to action is important, yet often overlooked. If you want the reader to do something, you have to be explicit. Don’t assume that if you put up a logo, people will click on it.

Developer Likes

According to the 2020 Developer Marketing Survey by Evans Data Corporation, the context in which ads are displayed is as important as the ads themselves. Links in e-newsletters were the most favored by developers, followed by targeted search-engine ads, web ads, and forum ads.  The highest-ranked content of interest was free software, followed by new development tools, followed by software development news.

Additionally, the survey found that specific messages were more likely to engage developers.  Phrases most likely to cause developers to click on ads included specific functionality of the technology itself, cost savings relative to competitors, advanced security features, specific performance specifications, and time savings relative to alternatives.

Developer Dislikes

Now that we know what developers prefer, let’s cover what they didn’t like. Returning to the topic of personas and understanding the audience, first, developers didn’t like marketing that targeted management rather than developers. Second, they didn’t like content that did not provide enough information or was too simplistic. Next came ads which appeared out of context, ads that were too large or invasive, or that appeared in content where ads were inappropriate. (This is yet another reason to offer developer advertising in the context of their developer communities.)


We’ve covered some of the components of good advertising to developers, but the truth is that creating good advertising takes time. It takes a lot of trial and error to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time, and to get them to react in the way you want.  Advertising is a way to connect with your audience and build credibility as well as relationships. Advertising has a negative connotation because of saturation and its invasive nature. But without it, how would we know what we’re missing?