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Pinterest is finally selling video ads

Welcome to the world of video advertising, Pinterest.

Pinterest is finally joining the fight for video ad dollars.

A smart phone with the app for Pinterest open, showing a video ad Pinterest

The search and discovery company launched video ads on Wednesday, only its second ad unit outside of Promoted Pins. A short preview of each video ad will appear in the main Pinterest feed, but won’t play with sound. Once you click on the ad, you’ll be able to watch the video in full, with sound, while you scroll through as many as half a dozen Pins the advertiser has selected to accompany the video.

The idea is that advertisers promote a product, then share related Pins that highlight how to use or buy whatever it is they’re promoting.

Pinterest is wading into a competitive area. Other sites like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are all fighting for digital video ad dollars, but Pinterest product manager Mike Bidgoli says the company’s strength as a shopping destination is what’s going to set it apart.

He specifically cited a report from Kleiner Perkins' Mary Meeker that found 55 percent of Pinterest users think of it as a shopping destination. Only 12 percent of users say the same about Facebook and Instagram. Because users visit Pinterest in a shopping mind-set, the video ads should have more impact, Bidgoli argued.

"It’s very rare for the value proposition to be four and a half [times] your competitor," he added.

It won’t be that easy, of course. Pinterest is not a native video platform. Unlike you do with Snapchat or YouTube, for example, you don’t go to Pinterest to watch videos, which means video ads may stick out (and not in a good way).

Pinterest has offered Video Pins since 2013, but they don’t play in-feed, and its native video player is all of three weeks old. The company has offered GIF-like animated Pins since last year, but GIFs are different from videos.

None of this is to say video ads won’t work on Pinterest, just that watching video is still not popular on Pinterest in the same way it is on other platforms. But that doesn’t mean Pinterest users aren’t looking for more video, says Bidgoli. The most popular place online for people to create new Pins? YouTube.

Here are a few housekeeping items.

  • Pinterest will charge advertisers even if users don’t watch their video ads. The company is charging per impression, which means an advertiser will pay up whenever the ad’s preview appears in a user’s feed.
  • Pinterest is not selling these ads programmatically at launch the way it does its other ad unit, Promoted Pins. That means interested advertisers have to work with an actual Pinterest salesperson to buy them versus using automated bidding software.
  • The new video ads will show up in the U.S. and U.K. beginning Wednesday, and will eventually move into other regions.

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