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Pinterest’s new pitch to advertisers; impressive or run of the mill?

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MUMBAI: Today, disruption is the operative word and brands of all hues are harnessing the digital medium to create cutting-edge communication. However, online audiences are very impatient and want things instantly – things that can sustain their interest, considering they have a short attention span to boot.

An online platform that has endeavoured to help consumers curate and share things they love is Pinterest. Founded four years ago by Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp, Pinterest has caught the attention of marketers with the launch of its various ad inventories over the past six months.

According to a report published in Reuters last month, Pinterest has raised a new $200 million round of funding that gives it a valuation of $5 billion. The company last raised money in October 2013 at $3.8 billion valuation in a round led by Fidelity Investments.

The social media platform stated in the report that it would use the capital to invest in technology, develop its advertising program further, and expand internationally. Pinterest said it has raised a total of $764 million so far from the time of its inception.

Pinterest also introduced a new advertising tool called ‘Promoted Pins’, in January this year. According to digital experts in India, the social media platform tested the inventory in multiple phases. It was just last month that the platform made a small roll out with a group of brands in the U.S. This comprised ABC Family, Banana Republic, Expedia.com, GAP, General Mills, Kraft, lululemon athletica, Nestle’s few products, Old Navy, Target, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Ziploc.

While on an average it takes around $30 to $40 to advertise on Pinterest, according to experts, with ‘Promoted Pins’, Pinterest aims to improve functionality, generate revenue and serve additional content around the pin. The company also aims at generating between $1 million and $2 million per campaign from its big advertising partners.

To address the large chunk of small and medium-sized businesses Pinterest is going to take a different route and opening up ‘Promoted Pins’ to more businesses in a very Facebook-like advertising model. Instead of paying by impressions, like on Facebook, with Pinterest’s this inventory, brands only pay when people click through to their brand website.

It is learnt that Pinterest is also prepping up to open a data firehose by the name Business Insights API. With this, companies will be able to customize their online campaigns based on user insights.

Pinterest’s move is being likened to what Facebook initiated only to be taken over by Twitter later. Indiantelevision.com spoke to social media experts to understand what this means to an emerging market like India.

Digital Quotient strategy and planning head Girish Mahajan opines that though Pinterest has gained a lot of momentum worldwide, in India, its power is yet to be fully realized. “This is mainly because Indians constitute only eight per cent of the entire Pinterest user base. But if your business is fashion, interiors, arts or F&B, Pinterest could be an interesting tool to make shopping easier and fun,” he says.

“If a brand wants greater engagement of a particular target audience say women, in that case, Pinterest can prove to be tremendously influential. Visual is Pinterest’s strength, a very important factor for retailers. Also when compared to other social media tools, the amount of time required to run digital campaigns on Pinterest in less. Promoted Pins are available on an invite-only basis; it is essentially a CPM-based model. Pinterest is aiming for e-commerce bucks unlike Facebook and Twitter. The platform will evolve more into a second base for e-commerce sites other than FB or Twitter. At present in India, advertising options are not fully available but in the near future, we will witness people leveraging this tool better,” Mahajan added.

According to RAPP India president Venkat Mallik ‘Promoted Pins’ will work well but only if brands handle them well. “If the promoted pins are overly 'salesly' they are likely to get rejected. The visual of promoted pins needs to look like content that is generally interesting to people with related interests and then have a sales message may be one layer down. There are a number of theories about the kind of pictures that get the largest amount of likes and repins and some of those could potentially serve as guidelines on how to make promoted pins work better as well,” mentioned Mallik.

Facebook’s buying of Instagram last year added a lot of value especially in a market like India.  According to social baker Nike, MTV and Starbuck are the top brands in Indian on Instagram.  Ignitee social media head Nikhil Kharbanda says that many Indian brands prefer Instagram to Pinterest because of the former’s reach and subtle advertising option such as sponsored post/video. Though Instagram doesn’t release numbers according to many international news reports, the application has doubled its user base in the last one year.

“The way ahead in creating effective communication on social media is to bet high on image marketing. It can be noted that currently, Indian brands are interestingly using Instagram in their digital media mix but I am positive that with platforms such as Pinterest introducing affordable advertising options, there will be much more action seen from brands in this space,” adds Kharbanda.

Whether Pinterest will be able to make a dent on Instagram’s popularity with Indian brands, only time will tell...

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