Walgreens is running its first video ad campaign on Pinterest, which will focus on ‘small gifting.’

Walgreen Co. wants to establish itself as a “primary destination for secondary gifts” this holiday season—that is, the types of inexpensive gifts a consumer might give a co-worker, a teacher or the mail carrier. And this week it is launching its first video ad campaign on Pinterest to do so.

The video ad, which is set to run through mid-December, highlights the types of gifts shoppers can find at Walgreens stores or online, including action figures, candles and wine.

“We want to inspire small gifting,” says Adam Kmiec, senior director, mobile, social, content and performance marketing at Walgreens, No. 37 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide. “Throughout the holiday season we want to remind our customers that we offer convenient options—in stores and online—so that they can quickly find a gift and get back to the fun of the holiday season.”

Like many retailers, the holidays are a crucial time for Walgreens given that the final two months of the year represent an outsized share of sales. The holiday season also is important for Walgreens’ social media efforts, Kmiec says, given that last year it attracted a 30-50% increase in social media activity during the season. That’s true on Pinterest as well. “Despite it being harder to break through on social media during the holiday, some of our best engagement on Pinterest happens during the holiday season,” a Walgreens spokesman says.

Pinterest Inc. launched Promoted Videos in August and the ads are distinct from those video ads offered by Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and other platforms. While other platforms’ video ads 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 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.


Those differences make it essential that Walgreens’ video is “contextually appropriate” to drive consumers to slow their scrolls, Kmiec says. “That requires us to have a video that’s compelling, thoughtful and inspiring,” he says.

It also requires effective targeting. In addition to basic demographic targeting, such as users’ age and gender, the retailer uses signals to find consumers likely to be looking for small gifts. For instance, it aims ads at consumers who pin products from Walgreens.com or who have visited the retailer’s site.

Walgreens plans to evaluate the campaign based on the number of views the video receives, how much of the video is watched and whether shoppers pin the video to a board. It will also evaluate direct sales from shoppers clicking to Walgreens.com, whether it provides a lift to its store sales, as well as how the video impacts shoppers’ intent to buy from Walgreens and how they feel about the brand. Kmiec declined to say how Walgreens will measure store sales and brand lift-related metrics.

The Pinterest campaign is one of several social media efforts Walgreens is running throughout the holiday season. Each platform offers different tools and ad formats, which enable the retailer to adapt its tactics. For instance, Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool enables the retailer to use the data it gathers about its customers via its Balance Rewards program to finely target shoppers on Facebook and Instagram based on their past purchases.


Because the platforms are different, so are the ads. For instance, Pinterest is a platform where consumers plan ahead, which is why a video that aims to orient their planning to Walgreens makes sense, Kmiec says. Consumers typically check Instagram late at night, which is why on Christmas Eve it may share an image featuring batteries to remind shoppers who may have forgotten to buy them for their Christmas presents that Walgreens sells batteries and is open on Christmas Eve.

“It’s important to make sure that each creative unit is contextually right for the platform and the consumer we’re going after,” he says.