How Pinterest is pitching its ad business in the UK

Pinterest has been sharpening up its proposition, improving its ad business and how buyers run campaigns in order to capture more money from U.K. agency budgets.

Pinterest carved out a name for itself as a destination for inspiration, placing it somewhere in between a search and a social platform. But this commingling of the two has been one of the reasons U.K. agencies haven’t invested as willingly. Now the platform is making it clearer by highlighting its search capabilities.

During a visit in October to GroupM media agency Essence, Pinterest’s pitch centered on how to apply search keyword targeting strategies, like those used for planning Google search campaigns. Typically, excluding specific keywords or including generic brands would be part of a three-month-long media plan, compared with a shorter product-based display campaign that could sit on other social platforms.

“For the last two years, Pinterest has been popular with fashion, retail and tech brands but it’s never been an always-on or staple,” said Deborah King, vp, media activation paid social, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at Essence. “Over the last six months, with us, it’s been more clear and aggressive with the narrative of search rather than social. They have been a lot more focussed on where they sit in the funnel, they see themselves as a consideration platform.”

Essence is running keyword search strategies over multiple months on several of its clients, rather than one-off campaigns. It has recently started working with beauty brand L’Oréal and retailer Argos.

A shift in its pitch also reflects where it eyes growth after several years of trying to capture social budgets, King speculates, when it can’t compete on the CPM price and audience scale of Facebook and Google.

“If positioned correctly it can create opportunities for product discovery and capturing intent, a full-funnel marketing channel,” said Paul Kasamias, managing partner at Publicis Media agency Starcom. “Product ‘pinners’ demonstrate and display clear intent or interest and are perfect to target with e-commerce messaging.”

Pinterest’s attribution window is much longer than most clients would measure. Users planning weddings would need longer than a seven-day attribution cycle.

“We’ve seen that when linking out of the Pinterest ecosystem onto advertiser sites there is a drop-off in performance, which presents an attribution challenge with regards to e-commerce in particular,” added Kasamias.) In the U.S., the platform is testing new conversion tools.)

Starcom has seen strong performance for ads for primarily retail and food clients. One video ad product, which Pinterest calls max width, where a promoted video expands, performs particularly well, said Kasamias.

“The biggest barrier to investment is the perception that assets need to be wildly different, that assets need to be lists or visual blogs,” he said. “Advertiser content is an area that Pinterest should focus on to continue to see media spend grow, this is an area that Facebook, Twitter and Snap have all invested creative resource into.”

In the U.K., Pinterest is still in growth mode. On LinkedIn, there are 30 Pinterest employees based in the U.K., with another seven job openings for roles including a country manager, agency relationships and measurement.

Ad spending is growing but at a slower pace as the U.S. market hits saturation. Globally, the platform is forecast to reach nearly $1.5 billion in ad revenue in 2020, with $1.3 billion of this is from the U.S. where it has 86 million users, according to eMarketer. Partly to blame for lower U.K. investment is a lack of non-U.S. case studies, which buyers struggle to apply to the U.K. market with such different brand cases and user behavior.

“You almost go big or go home with Pinterest,” said King. “Major clients will always use it but trying to run tests makes it really hard to get live quickly. And if the results aren’t always spectacular it’s hard to justify the ROI.”

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