Want to Advertise to the Best Designers? Look to Publishers

Portrait of Vanessa King
by Vanessa King
Oct 2, 2017
A graphic designer works in their office.

Designers are everywhere: they read the latest news, search for resources, browse for inspiration, and listen to podcasts.

But for marketers, sometimes it feels like they’re nowhere to be found. It’s not always easy to segment design audiences on huge advertising platforms, especially if marketers want to target specific types of designers.

One solution is advertising with trusted publishers that already have designer followings. Let’s dive into the why and how of these campaigns so you can start reaching highly-qualified designers immediately.

Why Marketers Should Go to Publishers for Designer Campaigns

Publisher-direct advertising is often celebrated for its transparency into where ads go and what it costs to serve them. They’re also known to outperform the click-through rates of blind programmatic buys because ads are more relevant and served in context.

But marketers targeting design communities have even more to gain. From deeper audience targeting to better user experience, publisher advertising gives marketers more opportunities for effective campaigns with improved ROI.

Go deeper into audiences

Publishers create content for audiences, usually at niche levels. By virtue of this model, publishers provide marketers with accurate targeting into specific communities. To unlock this benefit, marketers simply need to seek out publishers that cater to their targeted audiences—as specific or general as needed. For example, marketers can advertise on Dribbble to reach a range of graphic designers, UX Booth for user experience designers, or Web Designer Depot for web designers.

Unlock new formats

Along with deep audience targeting, marketers benefit from the variety of ad formats that publishers support. With direct opportunities, marketers can opt for the classic display ad or connect with designers through podcasts, newsletters, sponsored content, custom ad units, and more.

Protect user experience

In general, publisher placements that are sold direct tend to consider user experience more than those served through open ad exchanges. This is a huge perk for marketers targeting designer audiences, which are significantly more sensitive to horrid user experience than the average person. Nothing builds brand trust with future customers like respecting privacy and user experience.

3 Ways to Advertise on Publisher Properties

Thankfully, publisher-direct advertising is a lot simpler to understand than most types of digital marketing. Publishers often take one of three approaches to selling their inventory, each requiring different levels of time and research from marketers.

Buying directly from publishers

Publishers often sell advertising space through sales teams and self-serve tools. This approach offers a direct line of communication with publishers, letting marketers pick the exact placements they want and negotiate preferred rates.

For example, a marketer could choose to run a homepage banner ad on We and the Color through a directly negotiated deal. Knowing the exact placement means marketers can customize the ad to flow with the publisher’s audience and style.

Directly negotiated deals also have downsides. Lots of marketers don’t have the time needed to research the best publishers for their target audience, never mind contacting them one by one for rates and placements. This planning adds up fast, especially for small marketing teams.

Marketers who want to go direct but aren’t sure where to start should read our tips on finding the best emerging placements.


Marketplaces save the time and research that goes into finding available placements. Instead of going to publishers, marketers search through a curated list of publisher properties and build a media plan for their audience, budget, and timelines.

There are several marketplaces that connect marketers with designers on high-quality publisher properties. Syndicate offers newsletter, content, and podcast sponsorship opportunities on publisher placements such as DesignTAXI, Design Milk, and Designer Hangout. For display and custom units, marketers should check the Visual Arts & Design category on the BuySellAds Marketplace.

Marketplaces are a great fit for marketers who want to reach designers through trusted publishers without all the legwork of directly negotiated deals. However, marketplaces might not be the right fit for campaigns that need scale or will run for longer timelines.

Premium ad networks

Premium ad networks increase the reach of direct deals without the risk associated with ad exchanges. Through these, marketers reach audiences at scale with ads on publisher websites that are vetted for content quality and ad performance.

Premium ad networks are normally organized around verticals such as entertainment, travel, and food. Marketers wanting to reach designers should consider Carbon. This network represents exclusive inventory across hundreds of publishers trusted by the design community.

Marketers can opt for premium ad networks if they want scale without sacrificing audience relevance. But advertisers looking for a specific placement or publisher should consider marketplace or direct deals.

Pick The Approach That Works For You

Publisher advertising lets marketers reach designers quickly and effectively. Direct buys, marketplaces, and premium ad networks give marketers peace of mind with transparency into where ads are served, which audiences are targeted, and if ads are relevant for those groups.

Publishers already have access to the world’s best designers, and they’re looking for marketers who want to reach them.