pins finish

Pinterest, the content sharing platform, which works by allowing users to pin online content to a virtual board, announced it will launch its ‘promoted pins’ ad platform in the UK during the first six months of 2016 at the Web Summit in Dublin this month.

The offering has been running in the US for over a year. A promoted pin is a paid ad that ensures pins appear in the most relevant places on Pinterest. Marketers can target specific consumer groups, track data and pay on an engagement or click-through basis.

Kendall, Pinterest’s general manager of monetisation, who was formerly director of monetisation at Facebook, told Marketing Week: “We are trying to do for discovery what Google has done for search and by that I mean stitching together a catalogue of ideas on your smartphone every single day.”

He says Pinterest’s UK users have more than doubled over the past year and that three million items, from clothing to food and drink, are pinned daily. Pinterest, which has 100 million users, “will surpass one billion over time” according to Kendall, who says that discovery is a “universal need.”

But what exactly is the appeal to brands? Kendall says: “Our research shows that if a Pinterest user engages with a promoted pin, they are two to four times more likely to buy something. It is a natural place to put advertising.”

“Around $550bn (£362bn) is spent every year on trying to get consumers to discover a brand and that’s mostly unsuccessful. People are not using Pinterest to talk to their friends and family but to discover, so there isn’t the same intrusion to promoted pins as there is to Facebook ads, for example. In the US, 93% of Pinterest users told Millward Brown they use us in order to discover new purchases.”

“Pinterest is a natural place to put advertising.”

Tim Kendall, GM of monetisation at Pinterest

Citing US partner Walmart, which he says draws from four different categories for ad spend on Pinterest, Kendall believes the service will quickly appeal on multiple fronts to UK brands too.

How brands and agencies view Pinterest

Pollyanna Ward, UK social media manager for Ritz and Oreo at Mondelēz, has scoped out the potential of promoted pins, which have seen John Lewis and Asos already sign up as partners ahead of the UK launch.

“Promoted pins are good for increasing your website’s position in search rankings, so brands looking to increase web traffic and keyword search would greatly benefit from the service. It could be a fantastic platform to showcase Oreo recipes, particularly those submitted by users, so it is a platform we would definitely consider,” she says.

However, Ward suggests brands cannot simply replicate the same strategies used on platforms such as Instagram when advertising with Pinterest.

“The action of pinning to theme-specific boards is a more interesting way of engaging than just ‘liking’ something but it’s different from Instagram, which the majority of users use to showcase their own lives. Pinterest is a collaborative platform with brands and people curating boards from a sources across the web, from each other, and from their own resources.”

Tim Pritchard heads up social media at Manning Gottlieb, where he works with brands such as Waitrose and John Lewis. He says Pinterest users are much more primed to buy than those on other social platforms.

pinterest dude
Pinterest’s Tim Kendall used to head up monetisation at Facebook

He believes, however, that Pinterest is not yet the finished article. “What we’ve found with social platforms is once they monetise, it is a constant test and a learning curve, and it takes a few years to refine the process. Pinterest has to ensure that the buying model is as simple as possible and it is easy to fully integrate clients’ data. It also feels like a platform that should allow for richer images and maybe full videos, which it doesn’t yet.”

Mondelēz’s Ward, meanwhile, would welcome Pinterest becoming more of a storytelling platform, saying that brands could tell the next chapter of a story with each promoted pin.

“On the other hand, as pins are collated on people’s dashboards based on interests and pinners, storytelling would need to be contained either to boards, or within each pin, as the dashboard is different to the way that other social networks present their feeds,” she advises.

Cinematic pins

Pinterest already gives brands video through cinematic pins, launched in June, and tested by the likes of Unilever and Nestlé.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where videos start when you stop scrolling and stop when you scroll away, the opposite happens on Pinterest. The cinematic pins are seen in motion as the user scrolls, but the motion stops when the scrolling stops.

Admitting that it is still “early days” for cinematic pins, Pinterest’s Kendall is confident in its potential. He explains: “Video will become an integral part of Pinterest. Our challenge is giving brands the degrees of freedom over visuals but still making the user feel like they control the pins. We want to innovate video storytelling and not offer the same as everybody else.”

He says the service is also ripe for brands to discover their next social media advocates. “There are lots of people on Pinterest who have garnered a reputation for their taste, so that’s why people follow them; a guy with great taste in shoes, for example, may attract plenty of followers. If you put a pin on your website, the coolest advocates will emerge and we can give you the tools to target them.”

With 1.3 million people adopting ad-blocking technology since June, according to the IAB, it is clear that users want advertising to feel less intrusive. Ultimately, Kendall says that is where Pinterest will stand out to brands and users alike.

He concludes: “We have the best anti-intrusive platform; nobody wants to look through an album of family photos and be served an ad. If I read a jogging magazine, I expect to see an advert for some running shoes and that’s the kind of mantra we follow. On Pinterest, ads only appear where they belong.”