As Pinterest’s head of vertical strategy, Brian Monahan is tasked with developing and managing the platform’s marketing programs across a range of areas, including retail.

Pinterest Inc. has tapped an e-commerce marketing veteran to bolster its advertising offerings.

Pinterest, which sells itself as a “platform of intent,” today announced it has hired former head of marketing Brian Monahan as its head of vertical strategy. Monahan will oversee the retailer’s key verticals, which include retail, consumer packaged goods, travel and entertainment.

Monahan aims to take his experience—he has 18 years on the agency  and client side of digital marketing—to bolster Pinterest’s burgeoning advertising offerings.

“We want to take this powerful marketing platform and tune it to help our partners,” he says. What that means is finding new targeting options and new ad units that meet the specific needs of advertisers within a given vertical, say e-commerce.

One opportunity Monahan is eyeing is search. After all, Google’s influence is waning—at least in terms of product searches, according to a recent Bloomreach survey that found 55% of U.S. online consumers begin their product searches on Inc.’s website or mobile app.


“There’s a lot of questions in the industry about what this means,” Monahan says. “A lot of retailers are asking themselves where they can find consumers’ intent?”

Pinterest offers an answer, he says. A lot of consumers are shopping or browsing on its platform—55% of Pinterest users shop or find products on the social network, according to “Internet Trends 2016,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Mary Meeker’s presentation on the state of the internet—and they’re also conducting roughly 2 billion searches a month on the platform.

It would be a major coup if Pinterest could find a way to garner even a small share of the search advertising market. After all, search ads generated $16.3 billion in spending in the first half of 2016, or 49.8% of the $32.7 billion spent on digital ads overall by U.S. advertiser, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The other area Monahan would like to help retailers better understand is attribution. “There’s a growing disconnect between [return on ad spend] and what retailers actually see in terms of their business results,” he says. “Everyone is grappling with the attribution problem. Everyone realizes that they’re paying for customers’ orders that they would have gotten anyway. There’s a big need to demonstrate that we’re helping them find new customers to help them drive growth.”

That’s particularly important for social networks given that last-click attribution often shows social networks driving a tiny share of overall revenue. For instance, Adobe Digital Insights reports that from Nov. 1-Dec. 5, social networks drove 0.9% of retailers’ holiday sales.


Pinterest, Monahan says, is working to help address those issues by finding ways to tailor ads at shoppers who are just starting to contemplate a purchase and those close to clicking the Buy button. And Pinterest has some ad units that blend the two. For example, when a consumer clicks on one of its Promoted Video ads 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. The idea is that the video may lure shoppers at the top of the so-called purchase funnel—that is, they’re just starting to think about making a purchase—while the promoted pins below the video allow a shopper to quickly click and buy.

Nearly two years after Pinterest launched its first ads, the platform has spent much of this year adding targeting options and ad units. There are more tools  on the horizon, Monahan says.