Just a few months after it said it was limiting the types of advertisers it would seek to work with, Pinterest says it’s broadening its ad sales ambitions again.
In September the image bookmarking service sent a letter to ad buyers saying it would no longer offer sales support and consultation to marketers outside the retail and consumer goods verticals.
But in February Pinterest hired former Google sales executive Jon Kaplan as its head of global sales, and the company said Monday it once again plans to service and sell across all advertiser verticals in the U.S. market, with a particular focus on financial services, travel, automotive and quick-serve restaurant marketers.
Why the about-face? For one thing, the company is growing in size, according to President Tim Kendall.
But perhaps more importantly, Pinterest now has a better understanding of how it can serve advertisers outside of the retail and packaged-goods verticals.
“Some of the things we’ve built on the advertising side — and around re-targeting — allow us to do a better job in some of these new verticals,” Mr. Kendall said.
The company has been working to understand when its users are entering certain “life stages”, for example, which suggest they might be in the market for certain types of products. If users are “pinning” content related to building a nursery, that’s an indication they might also need a bigger car, or perhaps some insurance.
“We’re seeing more people experiencing and planning for life moments, and it was an opportunity for us to expand”, Mr. Kendall said.
The addition of new ad features allowing marketers to use their own customer data to target across Pinterest has also helped drive interest outside of retail and packaged-goods marketers, Mr. Kendall added.
To support the new sales efforts, incoming sales chief Mr. Kaplan said he plans to begin organizing his sales staffers to focus on specific types of clients.
“We’re now in the early stages of verticalizing our sales organization,” Mr. Kaplan said.
Meanwhile, the company said its key investment on the advertising side is currently around ad formats, targeting, and measurement – areas which top the priority list for most everyone selling advertising in 2016, including other digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Mr. Kendall said Pinterest currently has more than 10,000 advertisers on its platform, and pulled in five times more ad revenue in 2015 than it did during 2014. The company raised $367 million in March 2015, giving it a valuation of $11 billion and making it one of the most highly valued startups by venture capitalists in the world.
The biggest challenge with attracting new advertisers to Pinterest is simply educating them about the platform, Mr. Kendall added.
“Marketers have been trained around this social media model where they only show up as interruptive ads,” he said. “Part of what we have to explain to marketers is how Pinterest works and what pinners actually use it for.”