San Francisco’s naked programmers — the ubiquitous billboards with young men posing in their underwear to hawk an engineer job hunting site — are spreading nationwide, starting in Times Square and then on to Austin and Seattle.
The billboards, an advertisement from recruitment firm Dice, feature programmers in varying states of physical fitness, wearing only underwear and making kissy-faces or cat crawling toward the camera. The text gives the young man’s name and technical focus: “Alex, Ruby on Rails.” And below that, the tagline: “Find the hottest tech talent.”
Their presence and popularity shows just how in demand technical talent is (engineers are seeing historic lows in unemployment, now around 2.5 percent, while nationally it’s about 5.6 percent). And, for new markets like New York, the ads offer a pretty good representation of Silicon Valley: Its sense of self-effacing humor and emphasis on young, male technical talent.
“It’s about empowering them,” said Dice president Shravan Goli, of the ads. “Technology professionals are in the driver’s seat.”
As demand for tech talent has grown, the recruitment business is booming.
“It’s a tight market, and tech has become more pervasive — retail, telco, finance, even the Home Depots of the world, the Walmarts of the world, all kinds of companies are leveraging technology,” Goli said. “These technology professionals are in much much higher demand.”
“It’s about breaking down the stereotype of the tech geek,” Shravan said.
The obvious problem with the ads is that the joke — men posing as women do in fashion magazines — presupposes that there can’t be women on the billboards. The joke is that it’s guys in their underwear cat crawling at the camera. Goli said they’re changing that in their next expansion to Seattle and Austin (not New York). But for anyone on the Bay Area, the last six months have been hammering the tired stereotype of the brogrammer, nerdy and in charge. The two men who designed the ads at Barkley agency in Kansas City said they hadn’t thought about any gender-related issues with the billboards.
Technically, the billboards are advertising Dice’s new service that scours hundreds of programmer haunts like GitHub and MeetUp as well as sites like Facebook and Twitter to create comprehensive, aggregated profiles of millions of programmers who are, usually, not looking for jobs but about whom recruiters now know a lot. The idea is that knowing the programmer’s movie and food taste may help woo him.
“With Times Square now, we’re going to make 1.9 million people …” Shravan said, trailing off.
See the naked programmers, that’s what.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.