Pinterest, which just made its Promoted Pins tool generally available, will soon offer more features for its paid advertising products, said Pinterest COO Dan Faul at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview conference on Thursday.
These features will include integrating rich targeting features with a brand’s first-party CRM data and solutions around branding and direct-response advertising.
Despite this investment, Pinterest faces an uphill battle in courting advertisers.
Major brands like Target, Walmart and Kraft are already beta-testing some of these tools, but other advertisers have expressed hesitance to pay to invest in Pinterest because they don’t want to kill off their organic reach.
The answer to getting advertisers on board will be more robust advertising tools and data to show the platform works, Faul said, a vision that’s still laid out in paper and not in code.
“Our targeting now is insufficient,” he acknowledged.
Besides incorporating brands’ CRM data into its targeting, Pinterest also wants to move beyond demographic targeting to intent-based targeting. All those pinners saving healthy dinner recipes or planning vacations to Hawaii should turn into targetable segments. And Pinterest wants to measure its offline influence on purchases.
“The landscape has changed a ton in past five or six years,” Faul said. “What people expect now didn’t exist in 2008: build an ad server, analytics and measurement solutions that weren’t in use five to six years ago."
To that end, Pinterest made its sixth acquisition earlier this week, Kosei, which makes product recommendations.
“We have this enormously valuable data set,” Faul said. “The team will be working directly on recommendations for organic content, and that same infrastructure will power our ad targeting.”
But if Pinterest wants to attract a diverse set of advertisers, it also needs to grow its audience. Its $4 billion valuation comes with the expectation that it will expand beyond its female-dominated user base. So Pinterest has worked hard to bring more men to the platform, and not to bombard those men with images irrelevant to their interests.
Faul spoke to AdExchanger about Pinterest’s plans in the year ahead.
AdExchanger: What are your top three verticals now? And what do you hope to be the next three verticals where you find advertisers?
DAN FAUL: We started in CPG. We have most big CPGs, and retail has been successful. We’ve done some work with travel.
But we’re starting to diversify into other categories. One is financial services. We worked with Bank of America on a campaign about better money habits. It was instructional campaign, about how to plan for important financial moments. Many of the things you aspire to do in your life, those moments people are planning for, are enabled by good financial decisions.
The engagement rates on the campaign are some of the highest we’ve seen throughout our beta [of Promoted Pins].
What would you say to advertisers who may worry their organic reach will drop or the platform will change its rules as it rolls out more ad products?
Because of the way that’s evolved on other platforms, marketers have some concerns. You never know how platforms evolve, but we do believe it’s important to be transparent with partners, and give them stability. Here, the dynamics are different. The interests are aligned. We want to make sure great content is discoverable, and a huge portion will always come from businesses.
What goals did you have in the development of Promoted Pins?
First, making sure we delivered on this commitment to users that ads would be highly relevant, engaging, tasteful and as good or better than regular content.
Second, we wanted to show we can move real business metrics. In the beta, we saw a 30% earned media, which is the [free] reach they get from shares.
Third, we want to understand that the products we’re building are addressing our partners. Over the past six to 12 months, they’ve shared with us what’s working, what’s not, and they’re the reason we’re working on deeper measurement and giving them more support on creative.
How is work coming on your small business product?
That’s our DR product. We want any business of any size, any vertical to be able to engage organically and buy [ad] products. There will be multiple ways to do that. The current self-service product is in beta.
How are you courting media planners who don’t have time to figure out new platforms?
We were in that spot at Facebook, too. The onus is on us to demonstrate we’re the best place to get great ROI. The other piece beyond that is to make it as easy as possible for that person to create content, which we do with our creative workshops.
What’s particularly unique about Pinterest is that the content is evergreen. You don’t have to pump content into an ephemeral platform like most social networks. If you nail quality, you’ll get amazing returns. Some of our most popular Pins are from a year ago. The distribution of reach and engagement is really long, and you’ll get value from that on an ongoing basis.
How do you counteract the impression that Pinterest is only for women?
We’ve always thought we could be relevant for a lot of people, but they think it’s a site for women and food. That does present a challenge for us.
We’ve done a lot more on the marketing front. We’ve tried to be deliberate about the types of emails we send, and how we talk about it, so people shift how they think about it, and don’t think “women interested in home decor, fashion and food.”
We have relationships with a lot of brands and businesses with broad bases, like Nike, big car companies and publishers like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, so there is content there for me to discover and pin.
Relevance also comes from investment in the product – like if you’re a man that signs up and sees women’s hairstyles in your feed. Well, 18 months ago, we were not great on that front. Now, quality has increased dramatically.