October 9, 2013, 11:56 AM

Image-heavy social network Pinterest debuts its first ads

The social network tests promoted “pins” in search results and category feeds.

Lead Photo

Pinterest today took its first steps toward earning revenue from its user base by launching its initial test of ad units on the social network. Pinterest is the 14th most-visited site in the United States, according to Alexa Internet Inc., a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., and its average visitor spends more than 7 minutes and 36 seconds on the site per visit.

Pinterest allows consumers to share favorite products by pinning images from around the web, creating an online collection of pictures. Consumers add their pins to boards, which are organizational tools used to group pins together around a particular theme—for example “My Style.” Consumers can also repin images that others have pinned, and endorse others’ pins by clicking a Like button.

The social network’s first ads, which Pinterest calls “promoted pins,” appear in search results and category feeds for both desktop and mobile users. For example, a costume shop might promote a pin for a cow costume when a user searches for “Halloween.”

The promoted pins look like other pins on the social network, but include a “promoted” label and feature an “i” icon that, when moused over, explains why the shopper sees the pin. For instance, if a retailer called Julie’s Outdoor Supply pays to promote a pin in search results, a shopper who mouses over the icon will see a note that reads, “This pin is from Julie’s Outdoor Supply. It’s showing up here because Julie’s Outdoor Supply paid to have it placed where you’d be more likely to notice it.”

Pinterest says that it “just testing things out right now,” and may adapt the ad formats based on consumers’ responses. “We’ll be listening closely to what you have to say, and will continue to keep you posted about how things go,” wrote Ben Silbermann, CEO and co-founder, in a blog post.

Pinterest  announced plans to test ads last month. Its approach echoes that of Instagram, which announced plans to introduce ads last week, as well as popular ad formats on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook Inc. offers promoted posts, an ad unit that enables a brand to pay to ensure a post receives a predetermined number of impressions from its fans and from consumers likely to be interested in its brand.


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