The image-focused social network has been on a rapid sprint to catch up to Facebook and Google with its advertising offerings.

Pinterest Inc. today launched Promoted Videos, which enable U.S. and U.K. retailers and other marketers to pay to ensure that a certain number of consumers will see a video it shares on the social network.

The ads differ from the video ads offered by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., which both automatically play video ads at a constant rate when a user scrolls by them in their feed. On Pinterest the video ads are timed to play at the same pace with which the user scrolls down the page. When a shopper clicks on the video it opens up Pinterest’s native video player. The video is then presented with the advertiser’s promoted pins featuring products shown in the videos below the video.

“When you think of the e-commerce element tied into the ads, Pinterest is doing an innovative trick,” says Omar Akhtar, an analyst at the consultancy Altimeter Group. Retailers that sell lifestyle products, such as beauty products and cookware, will likely find the ads effective, he says.

“Think about the types of videos that work well on Facebook or YouTube. They’re generally aspirational, featuring cooking demonstrations and how-to elements,” Akhtar says. Tying the product in with the video helps Pinterest distinguish its video ads, he says.

The move to add video advertising reflects the fact that videos are fast becoming a more important part of image-focused Pinterest. In the past year, there have been 60% more videos pinned on the social network than the previous year.


And video ads are quickly becoming a more important, and lucrative, advertising vehicle that retailers are leveraging to help shoppers learn about their brands and drive sales. Research firm eMarketer Inc., for instance, expects advertisers to spend $9.84 billion on digital video ads this year, up 28.5% from $7.66 billion last year. By 2020, it expects advertisers to spend $16.69 billion on digital video ads.

Escentuals Beauty Inc., No. 418 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, and Kate Spade & Co. (No. 140), both tested the video ads. However, the only testing results Pinterest is sharing come from a study conducted with Millward Brown that found video ads featuring General Mills’ Old El Paso brand were roughly four times more memorable than non-video ads.

The launch of video ads is the latest in a series of recent moves by Pinterest to bolster its advertising options. For instance, it recently changed the way it sells ads by letting retailers and other advertisers bid on available cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) ad inventory. The social network had previously sold CPM-based ads at a fixed price. And in June it rolled out new ad targeting options.

“Pinterest is playing a game of catch-up,” Akhtar says. Pinterest launched its first ads last year. “Facebook has shown what mobile ads can do. Pinterest has to figure out how to distinguish itself from its competition.”