Predicting the Potential of the Promoted Pin

The floodgates have been nudged open a teeny bit more to give online retailers a sneak peek into the use of paid advertising on Pinterest, a platform that boasts 70 million users worldwide. Promoted Pins have been in the works for about a year, with a few, select retailers slowly brought into the fold. Here’s a somewhat simplified timeline of events:

10/9/13 – Promoted Pins begin free testing.

5/12/14 – Paid tests are available to select group of large retailers. Ads are sold on CMP basis, for 3-6 months.

6/5/14 – Smaller retailers begin testing. Retailers pay only if ad is clicked. No minimum spend. Analytics page is announced.

8/13/14 – More businesses are invited to join the pilot program.

9/19/14 – Changes to privacy policy announced. Will go into effect on Oct. 19th.

This is huge news for e-retailers not only because of Pinterest’s massive audience, but because of the timing. Users typically spend an increased amount of time on the platform looking for creative gift ideas. Last year, 54% of users spent more time on the site during the holidays, and 94% say it changed the way they prepped for the season. It’s prime time to promote your pins.

From what we’ve seen so far, here’s the break down of the Promoted Pin potential:

How it works

For small and mid-size retailers, promoting pins will be as easy as creating a regular pin. You will simply select the pin you’d like to advertise, hover over it, and a “Promote” button will appear. This directs you to ad setup where, like Facebook and Twitter, you can choose keywords to help your pin appear in relevant search results. You can also target your ads to certain locations and demographics, on mobile or desktop.

You can also refine your audience from this page. Once you’ve chosen your CPC bid, give the Promoted Pin a name and set your daily budget. Pinterest will then review and (hopefully) approve your ad. Currently, there are a few restrictions on Promoted Pins. The platform is asking that retailers make the ad relevant to brand-landing pages and ensure they are of high-quality. Pinners will have to make sure their Promoted Pins don’t contain:

  • Promotional information
  • CTAs (calls to action)
  • Service claims
  • Price listings

If your pin is not approved, they’ll send it back to you with some helpful tips for resubmission. Tracking analytics will be available as well, showing you how many impressions, repins, and clicks your ads receive.

The good, the bad, & the privacy policy

The good

Marketers have long awaited the arrival of paid ads on Pinterest and the chance to sell to users who are notoriously big shoppers. Pinterest users average checkout value is double that of Facebook’s and almost three times that of Twitter’s. Even if the ad logistics are riddled with flaws, Pinterest is a gold mine for advertisers.

And let’s not overlook the content featured on Pinterest. The platform is primarily based on ideas, hobbies, and creative inspiration, which commonly leads users to sites to find directions, materials, ask questions, and buy. The spirit of Pinterest is longing for products and creations you don’t have, while other sites like Twitter and Facebook don’t catalog your scrapbook of must-haves. Pinterest users simply have a higher likelihood of purchasing products shown on the platform. This year’s Ahalogy report found 38% of users bought something because they saw it on Pinterest.

The bad

Currently Promoted Pins can target users by four different characteristics: gender, location, language, and device. These targets are extremely barebones compared to more established ad platforms.

Although Pinterest may allow for expanded targeting in the future, retailers really need the ability to target connections and interests, or allow for retargeting to make the ads worth the cost. Sending your ads for shoes to followers of other shoe brands or serving them an ad for a product they’ve already seen could allow for an explosion of growth, similar to what Facebook Exchange did for Facebook. Promoted Pins will be much more powerful if Pinterest lets retailers navigate their ads among interests on a platform conveniently based on hobbies, ideas, and creativity.

Promoted Pins are also only being shown in search page results and category feeds. It seems there are currently no plans to show them on homepage streams – where users browse the most content. Having ads shown here would increase their value significantly.

The privacy policy

The update to Pinterest’s privacy policy seems to be a good sign that retargeting might be available in the future, as it will let the platform collect information about users and their offsite visits. This information will set the stage for conversion tracking and audience targeting. Retailers would be able to target their own followers with ads and drop a pixel on their site to track products viewed and conversions from Promoted Pins. Unfortunately, users will have the option of turning off targeting ads, and Pinterest states there are no current plans to retarget users with data collected off-site… yet.

Although the slow moving Promoted Pins development may seem like a let down to retailers who might have hoped to retarget users this holiday season, it’s probably a good sign for users and the long-term success of the site. The molasses-slow ad roll-out shows Pinterest is trying to maintain a level of quality and avoid giving users a Digg-esque reason to run for the hills.


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