Home Pinterest Wants You To Be Your Own Advertiser

Pinterest Wants You To Be Your Own Advertiser

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins are great for big brands, but what about medium to small ones? Now there’s an offering scaled just to them—a new do-it-yourself Promoted Pins tool.

Pinterest for Business was launched 18 months ago and in that time the social discovery platform has made it so anyone, from big-time corporations to teensy personal blogs, can sign up for a business account. Since last October, Pinterest has been testing Promoted Pins, a way for those businesses to pay for their pins to show up in relevant searches and user feeds. Promoted Pins don’t come cheap though—Ad Age reports that Pinterest is looking for $1 to $2 million commitments for cost-per-impression deals. 

Needless to say, small businesses don’t exactly have millions to spend. A self-serve alternative may be a simple way for Pinterest to scale its offering. 

Is This Pinterest’s “Wild West” Moment?

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins ad product costs quite a bit. My recent conversation with Joanne Bradford, head of partnerships at Pinterest, shed a bit of light onto why. 

“Partnerships [with brands] aren’t just, ‘Go get ad dollars.’ That’s not how we think about it here,” she said. “We’re really about teaching partners how to be their best on Pinterest.”

See also: How Pinterest Is Slowly Learning To Make Money

Outreach takes time and manpower. It’s a work in progress and Bradford continues to hire community managers all over the globe. Partnerships that require educating companies are, by definition, not very scalable.  

In that regard, self-serve ads for the masses are the fast and dirty approach. That’s essentially how Google made most of its money with its keyword auction real-time bidding network. For Pinterest, instead of initially coaching companies on how to best use the platform, it can just monitor the ads from small and medium businesses as they come in. 

Unlike Promoted Pins, Pinterest’s new self-service ad platform is cost-per-click, not cost-per-impression. With that sort of pricing model comes a certain kind of desperation from would-be ad buyers. If you look at the companies on Facebook and Google who use cost-per-click, they’re less about “beautiful” and more “made you look.” Anything goes in the Wild West.

“In the absence of a formalized ad channel, social networks are like the Wild West,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of Visual Web analytics platform Curalate. “Brands do whatever they want to garner attention—whether or not it’s in keeping with what the networks aspire to. I believe that creating a formalized channel for placing ads will ultimately help prevent spam by enabling Pinterest to monitor what types of ads go out.”

Of course, Pinterest isn’t going into this blindly. Don Faul, Pinterest’s head of operations who oversaw the new tool’s development, formerly launched the self-serve ad tool at Facebook in 2008. Dozens of Pinterest employees came from Facebook. Still others came from one of the other largest self-serve ad platforms, Google—including CEO Ben Silbermann. They have seen firsthand what happens when cost-per-click ads get ugly. Perhaps they’re trying for a redo. 

A Need For Speed

The self-serve Promoted Pins tool isn’t officially open for business. Right now you can register to be on the wait list. According to Pinterest, only a few small to medium brands are testing it

It’s par for the course for Pinterest to go slow and steady on new features. But when you consider that Pinterest tested the first Promoted Pins for six months prior to launch, the announcement of a self-serve tool two months later seems downright speedy.  

See also: Pinterest Rolls Out ‘Promoted Pins’ Ads—But No Advertisers

There are two reasons this might be happening, one good and one bad.

Starting with the negative, perhaps Promoted Pins have not performed to Pinterest’s expectations. Asking for $1 to $2 million is a lot, even for a big company, if the return on investment isn’t great enough. Since Pinterest has shown it cares more about the user’s experience than making brands happy (through conservative pin promotion and extensive audience testing), big brands might feel like they can get a better deal and more exposure somewhere else. A cheaper self-serve alternative might be just the ticket.  

On the positive side, this might be Pinterest employees’ Google roots coming out. Even today, Google ads are democratic. The search engine wasn’t built by huge brands, but by small businesses hoping for a little exposure that were willing to take a chance. Here’s an opportunity to compare Pinterest to Google yet again, as the visual search community continues to measure up. 

See also: Pinterest Raises A $200 Million Warchest To Do Battle With Google

We still know very little about the self-serve tool, as it’s only open to a select few businesses. It’s hard to tell how Pinterest will look once it opens the advertising floodgates. But if Pinterest’s past activity is any indication, it’ll be a while until that happens.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.