That means that Pinterest will display ads that show a product next to a product that’s related to the ad based on elements such as its color, shape or texture.

The image recognition technology that powers Pinterest’s visual search and recommendations will now help the platform optimize the ads consumers see, Tim Kendall, Pinterest’s president, said Tuesday at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

That means Pinterest is offering advertisers functionality that other social networks don’t offer. In addition to letting retailers target an ad based on keywords or a consumer’s interests, Pinterest can display ads that show a product next to a similar product on somone’s Pinterest feed based on elements such as its color, shape or texture. For example, if a consumer is looking at turquoise, antique end tables, Pinterest can surface an ad featuring a home furnishing retailer’s similar-looking product.

“When a potential customer spots a table they like the looks of on Pinterest, visual discovery helps us recognize the style, textures and shapes that make it unique,” Umesh Unnikrishnan, Pinterest’s head of product, search ads, writes in a blog post. “We can identify it as a ‘rectangular, mid-century modern dining table,’ and show similar products that match the look and feel.”

Pinterest will immediately add the new functionality to ads that appear in its related pins and Instant Ideas, the tool that enables a user to tap a circle in the bottom right corner of a pin in her home feed to personalize her feed with pins relevant to a particular post. In the future, the platform plans to expand the technology to other areas, such as Shop the Look, which is its tool that enables Pinterest users to identify, shop and buy products within fashion and home pin.

The move builds on Pinterest’s recent efforts to bolster the ad tools it offers advertisers. For instance, in August it rolled out a number of advertising tools that enable retailers to target consumers who have interacted with the merchant’s pins, as well as letting merchants target shoppers who have taken specific actions on their websites.


Much of last year’s ad rollouts were focused on getting to parity with other platforms, Kendall said. “We’re starting to be able to segue into differentiation and build things that other people can’t, or that they could build, but because of the nature of the products, it wouldn’t make sense.”