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What’s Driving Pinterest’s Big Push into Video?

22 November, 2021 

Social sharing site Pinterest has launched a number of new video products this year as the platform pushes hard into video. In October it launched Takes, allowing all users to create video reactions to Idea Pins (essentially Pinterest’s take on the popular ‘stories’ format), as well as a new Watch tab for Idea Pins. Then earlier this month the company announced Pinterest TV, a shoppable live streaming product.

But Pinterest has been a video platform for a while now says Visha Naul, director of business marketing EMEA. And research run by GroupM and Kantar shows video is a natural fit for the platform – video ads have 3x better viewability and 2x better completion rates than the average social media platform.

In this interview, Naul explains how Pinterest’s video platform is evolving, how it uses trend data to target campaigns, and how it’s manage to cultivate a positive atmosphere among its users.

Pinterest has released several video-focused offerings over the past few weeks, from Takes to Pinterest TV. How important is video to Pinterest nowadays?

We’re at an interesting time in our journey because the platform has changed so significantly. Over 400 million people come to us every month for inspiration and to save ideas. And ideas are born from static images, but also video, which is a beautiful format for creators and advertisers.

Nowadays nearly one billion videos are viewed each day on Pinterest. So it’s already a video platform, and we’re adding more and more to the suite, with products like Takes. There are so many different video formats on Pinterest, it’s not just the standard 30 second spot or six second ad format which you might find elsewhere.

And the reason why we’re working so much with video formats is we want to make sure our platform works for our audience. We’re an inspiration company in our DNA, and part of that means making sure we’re suitable for the people we’re talking to. We have a unique audience of people who turn up to our platform looking for ideas – they’re positive, they’re leaned in and engaged, and they’re looking for things to try, buy, and make in real life. That’s why our video ads formats work so well for us, because they allow brands to tell their story to those users.

Do you anticipate that video’s role will grow even further? And is there a risk of alienating users if you prioritise video too much?

It comes back to audience engagement – how our audience is consuming content and thinking about video. Video on Pinterest is about meaningful engagement. We’re leaning into great storytelling and engagement with our users, because that’s exactly what our audience wants from us. And video’s strength is brand building and storytelling.

So video is always going to be really important to us. It’s the best way for a creator to get an idea across to their community, or for a brand to tell its story. We’re living in an age of rising consumer expectations – people want to know a little bit more about the values of a product, and the story behind it. Static imagery will always have its place in terms of capturing somebody in a visually appealing way, but video is a really important way to engage your audiences.

So we’ll continue to grow and evolve our video products as our audience grows with us.

What does Pinterest‘s video ad offering look like nowadays?

So in terms of video formats we have Idea Pins, which can be video ads but also mixed media, as well as static video ads and standard vertical immersion ads. And the key is that our suite of offerings is relatable to a brand’s objective. From a brand’s perspective, they would come to us and work in lockstep with us to figure out what their story is, and how we can help tell it on Pinterest.

We also publish trends and insights on a daily basis. So we can marry what the brand is trying to achieve with what the audience really wants, and those tools we offer.

How does Pinterest work with brands? Do you work directly with brands for all campaigns, or do you have self-serve tools too?

We do have self-serve tools which advertisers can use. But as I say we also do a lot of work to support brands and agencies in terms of how they can reach audiences. So it really depends on the campaign.

We publish a lot of materials on our business site to help advertisers too. For example Pinterest Predicts, our trends report, gives insights into what users are searching for. And we can pull out specific themes to help brands decide which trend they want to buy into.

Another thing we’re trying to do a lot is help advertisers understand what we can do from an ROI perspective. Video has always been great for brand storytelling. But effectiveness also needs to be at the heart of video. And that storytelling we’re talking about also has to be married with the ad actually being seen, in order to be effective. We conducted research with GroupM and Kantar and discovered that we have 3x better viewability rates than other social platforms.

That’s important here because it shows there’s a big different between social platforms. So on some platforms you have a specific way of talking to your audience, but on Pinterest there’s a different way to talk to your audience. Because of the type of audience we have, people engage with the ads more than they do elsewhere.

And video costs money, it has high production costs! So it’s important to understand how brand dollars work on each platform.

What does Pinterest‘s data offering for advertisers look like?

So we do have our first party data from logged in users. But our trends data is really important for targeting too.

Our trends data is really powerful because people use Pinterest to plan ahead. They’re planning projects – in lockdown for example we saw parent coming for ideas on how to entertain their kids, and teachers coming for ideas for lockdown lessons.

So our audience is very forward looking, and that’s really valuable for advertisers. We have data which gives advertisers insights into what our audiences are planning for. As a brand you can use that to understand what users are looking for, and how to engage them. It’s also important because when brands appear on our site, we want don’t want them to be interrupting users’ experience, but inspiring them. Trends and insight data can help them do that, and again that’s why we like to work closely with advertisers.

You say Pinterest users actively want to see video content from advertisers, given they use Pinterest for inspiration. What sort of video content works really well?

What makes Pinterest so unique is the mindset of our Pinners. Because they come to Pinterest to plan the next thing they want to try or buy, they actually want to hear from advertisers, to help them take their ideas and turn them into reality. So ads are actually additive to the user experience, rather than interrupting it. The ads here stand out, because they totally fit in.

Ninety-seven percent of searches on Pinterest are unbranded – e.g. blue sofa – so if you’re a retailer, for example John Lewis, you’re able to present Pinners with the exact thing they’re looking for.

Lots of different types of content works well – it all depends on the audience, what they’re looking for, and how they like to be communicated to. When you need to tell a story to your audience you need to tailor it to their needs. That might look like a standard video ad or it might be utilising idea pins ads which has become our fast growing engaging format because it taps into deeper storytelling and community engagement.

Obviously hateful and divisive content is a big issue for a lot of the online platforms at the moment. What has Pinterest done to cultivate positivity among its users?

Positivity doesn’t just happen by accident. The internet is what it is, so platforms have to be engineered in a specific way, and we do take deliberate action to make sure our platform remains a positive and trusted environment.

For example we banned weight loss ads, because body shaming has no place on our platform. We launched hair pattern search, where users can look for hair ideas which are appropriate for their hair type, so all users see themselves represented in search results. And these things are coupled with an algorithm that rewards positive content, as well as guidelines and product updates such as blocking anti-vaccination content, prohibiting culturally insensitive ads, prohibiting political ads, and launching compassionate search for mental wellness.

We’re really supportive of the notion of a kinder internet, and try to be really supportive of our creators. Creator burnout is a very real thing, and we’re really working with creators on how they show up on our platform. We also have a creator code, and people sign up to that in order to be able to create on our platform. That’s essentially an agreement between us and our creators to help build a kinder internet.

As Pinterest enables more video user-generated content through Takes, does that present more challenges around maintaining a positive environment, given the extra requirements around moderating content?

It’s always something we think about, because again we take our responsibility very seriously. And ultimately, Pinterest is part of the internet! So we do have to think very hard and proactively about all the tools we make.

But people aren’t coming to Pinterest to broadcast their political thoughts and opinions to a social network – people come to Pinterest looking for ideas to discover, save and do. So the content on the platform is inherently different from most social content. Even so, Pinterest is committed to not only serve inspiring content, but also to identify and prevent harmful content including misinformation and hate speech.


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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