Pinterest is a place where 447 million “pinners” visit monthly to plan shopping, travel, cooking and wardrobes. “They’re not here to look at their friends’ photos,” Mallard said. “They’re not here to debate politics from yesterday. They’re not here to kill time.”
Pinterest is crafting its place in digital media with e-commerce as its North Star. The company has launched a barrage of new media and ad products, while also promoting itself as a place for “positive online interactions.” “We are seeing advertisers now leave our competitors but stay with Pinterest,” Mallard said.
Pinterest acts as a refreshing counterpoint to the negative atmosphere that has hung over other platforms in the past year, particularly Facebook. Though not alone, Facebook, and its sibling app Instagram, were held up as examples of social media gone awry, being blamed for everything from raising political divisions, fanning discontent and contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
Pinterest executives have yet to be called to Congress, but the company has faced its own internal issues. In 2020, Pinterest settled a lawsuit for $22 million with two Black former executives at the company, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who said the company marginalized women leaders. This past November, Pinterest settled a shareholder lawsuit related to the allegations of discrimination for $50 million.
In 2021, the company worked to make changes for the better. Pinterest named Andrea Wishom as the first Black director to its board; it also updated its hiring practices and focused more on uplifting Black creators and businesses. Pinterest devoted part of its creator funding to underrepresented groups and started an event called Black Gold for its Black community. In an effort to ensure its search results are diverse and inclusive, it issued an update that helps users find hair-related pins based on six different hair types.
Pinterest has certainly been on an upward trajectory this year, which helped it reportedly attract an acquisition offer from PayPal in October for about $45 billion. That deal never materialized, but the prospects of a tie-up between Pinterest and the payments company showed there is value in a commerce-driven community.
Brands and advertising agencies are taking notice of the platform, too. In 2021, Pinterest deepened relationships with agencies including IPG Mediabrands and Dentsu. It worked with Marriott Bonvoy, Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe’s, Volkswagen of America, PepsiCo and Pernod Ricard. After a COVID-19-induced slump in 2020, advertising revenue bounced back 125% year-over-year to $613 million in the second quarter. Third-quarter growth was slower, but still up 43% over last year to $633 million.
Much of Pinterest’s success has come from its efforts to link celebrity culture, influencer status, social media and commerce.
Jennifer Lopez helped introduce Create Your Take, which Mallard said promotes digital collaboration. Lopez shared an Idea Pin with photos and videos of her past Halloween costumes, inviting 18,000 Pinterest followers to respond with their “takes” on similar outfits. Idea Pins are multimedia posts where all the items in the photos and videos can be made instantly shoppable with a click.
Pinterest also started a $20 million fund for creators, which isn’t quite as much as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat spend on payouts to their super users, but Mallard said Pinterest is spending the money strategically. “We will offer to pay to develop content, especially if it’s content that isn’t easily found elsewhere,” Mallard said.
Pinterest also is working closely with major retailers including Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe’s and Ikea, developing partnerships that are key to the future of online commerce.
“We meet Mondays to talk about top trend searches and what’s going on in the world of home improvement within the platform,” said Melanie Babcock, VP of integrated media at Home Depot, which has been a Pinterest advertiser since the platform first started selling ads in 2014.
Pinners are going to the site to plot at-home projects, and Pinterest trends show when consumers are thinking about upgrades to their home offices or outdoor spaces, which were two categories that rose in popularity during the pandemic.
Interest in Pinterest also comes as data becomes less transmissible online amid the death of the third-party cookie. With less precision in the programmatic marketplace, walled gardens like Pinterest, where users are logged-in and identifiable, are becoming all the more important.
Pernod Ricard spends 75% of its yearly marketing budget on digital channels, with 10% of that going to Pinterest in 2021, according to Kristen Colonna, VP, marketing enablement, Pernod Ricard. That’s up from 6% in 2020.
“Our brands are able to right-size where along the path to purchase consumers can be best influenced,” Colonna said.
Volkswagen of America used Pinterest this year to help introduce its ID.4 electric vehicle by creating a virtual showroom, giving Pinterest users a 3D tour of the new vehicle. It also worked with a number of Pinterest influencers to teach people about the cars.
Volkswagen chose Pinterest because people tend to take their time to explore, and they dive into subjects, rather than quickly scroll away like they do on Twitter or Facebook, said Kimberly Gardiner, senior VP of marketing for Volkswagen of America.
The Pinterest campaign generated several thousand sales leads for Volkswagen of America from people who visited the automaker’s site to explore making a reservation. Pinterest “did a nice job of finding the right audience,” Gardiner said.
See all of Ad Age's 2021 Marketers of the Year here.