Pinterest debuts click-to-play, mobile-only video ads

After rolling out a diet version of video ads last year, Pinterest is ready with the real thing, or at least something closer to it.

On Wednesday, Pinterest unveiled its latest spin on digital video ads. The company’s new mobile-only Promoted Video format is more than an animated GIF but still a departure from the conventional in-feed autoplay video ad popularized by Facebook and later adopted by other social networks like Twitter and Tumblr.

Instead of running the video ad itself in people’s feeds, Pinterest will insert a Cinematic Pin — the animated GIF-like, video-lite ad format Pinterest introduced last year — that will play some sound-free frames from the video as people scroll past it. People will have to tap on these teasers in order to see the video — which can run up to five minutes long and be formatted horizontally, vertically or as a square — but brands will have to pay for the ads even if no one checks out the actual video.

Pinterest will charge advertisers for every thousand times it serves the GIF-like preview in people’s feeds, according to Mike Bidgoli, product manager for monetization at Pinterest. To be fair, Facebook typically charges for its video ads once they’re served also. And unlike Pinterest’s click-to-play video ads, Facebook’s play automatically, which has frustrated viewability-minded brand advertisers who might still take issue with Pinterest’s video ad cost structure. You get what you pay for, and on Pinterest you’re paying for animated GIF impressions, not video views.

Marketers will be able to do their own math to calculate how much they’re paying per video view. Pinterest will tell advertisers how many impressions of their ads were served, how many views their videos received — including breakouts for how many of those views completed 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent of the video — and how many clicks the featured pins generated.

And brands will have control over the content they are paying for. While brands have the option of assigning Pinterest’s in-house creative shop, The Pin Factory, to produce the teaser version, an advertiser can decide for itself which frames from a video should appear in the GIF-like teaser.

Maybe instead of viewing Promoted Videos as a video ad format, it’s more accurate to consider it a free add-on to Pinterest’s Cinematic Pin format — and one that comes with its own free add-on.

After people tap on the ad teaser, a new page will open that plays the advertiser’s sound-on video in Pinterest’s relatively new native video player atop the screen and displays a gallery of branded pins below it.

Pinterest’s click-to-play Promoted Videos appear on their own page with a gallery of branded pins beneath them.

People can tap to expand the video to full-screen, or keep it in the partial player while swiping through the related pins that the brand has picked out to accompany the clip. When people tap on a related pin — an action that Pinterest will not charge the brand for — the video stops and the pin opens in a new page. People can swipe back from the pin page to the video page, where the video will resume playing from the point where it left off.

“In the case of bareMinerals, which is one of our launch partners, they are having a video on top, which is introducing their new product. But below it they have a pins that talk about how to apply their latest product or another pin that actually allows the user to buy the product at Macy’s,” said Bidgoli.

In addition to bareMinerals, Behr Paint, Kate Spade New York, Lionsgate and Purina are among the brands running Promoted Video campaigns at launch. But they’re not the first brands to use the format. Garnier, Old El Paso and Universal Pictures were among the first 12 brands that tested it earlier this year.

For now, only advertisers in the US and the UK with their own sales reps at Pinterest will be able to buy Promoted Video campaigns. But Pinterest plans to eventually sell these ads through its self-serve ad-buying tool, as well as through companies with access to its advertising API, although it doesn’t have a specific time frame in mind, according to a Pinterest spokesperson.

Pinterest also isn’t sure when it might bring these ads to its desktop and mobile site. For now, the company doesn’t have any plans to add a web version but may revisit the possibility later this year, according to Bidgoli. “More than 80 percent of our users are on mobile, so there’s no reason to rush the desktop format,” he said.

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.