Q&A: Pinterest’s Kevin Knight #CZLSF

In advance of his session at ClickZ Live San Francisco on August 11, Kevin Knight, head of agency and brand strategy at Pinterest, spoke with us about Pinterest’s branding strategy, the Pin Factory, and Promoted Pins.

ClickZ (CZ)What are some priorities in Pinterest’s branding strategy?

Kevin Knight (KK): As we’ve rolled out ads, our main goal has been to make sure that those ads meet the same relevance bar as organic content. When a Pin is good for Pinners, it’s good for brands. So we help brands flesh out the ideas and strategies that result in Pins that help Pinners do the kinds of things they’re looking to do – like plan a meal or find a new sofa. When advertisers meet that bar, they build brand equity and sell products along the way.

CZ: Since joining Pinterest in 2013, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?

KK: Over the past couple decades, every few years we see a new digital platform emerge that presents a huge opportunity for advertisers. Since most of these platforms eschew banner ads, it means advertisers have to learn how to make creative custom for each new medium. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is helping advertisers learn how to approach advertising on Pinterest in a way that feels native to Pinners. Brands can absolutely repurpose existing content for Pinterest, but there are some nuances to doing so that can make all the difference in both ad performance and Pinner experience.

CZ: What is the Pin Factory? Can you share some successes you’ve had in creating Promoted Pins for advertisers?

KK: Lots of advertisers want to reach the Pinterest audience but may not have assets ready to promote. For some, it’s because they’re smaller companies and don’t have ad agencies. For others, they just haven’t decided which agency to scope with Pinterest, and they want to do a trial run before deciding. The Pin Factory is a small in-house shop that makes Pins for advertisers like these. The goal is to get them up-and-running quickly, and then transition creative responsibilities to a more permanent steward, like a creative agency.

CZ: Your session at ClickZ Live San Francisco is on native ads. Can you give us some examples of native ads that have been successful? What are the pitfalls businesses should be aware of?

KK: One of my favorite examples is Dreyer’s Ice Cream. They use Promoted Pins to show people novel ways of serving ice cream (my favorite is the brownie bowl). Making ice cream more fun for families is good for Dreyer’s and families. The Pins have been hugely successful.

Where brands stumble on Pinterest is when they make Pins that cater to topics that are popular on the visual discovery platform – like cooking or home decor – but that aren’t relevant to that brand. Every brand exists because it helps people do something they want to do in their lives. With 50 billion Pins on Pinterest, no matter what your brand helps people do, there’s an audience for it on the platform. The trick is to play to that synchrony.

CZ: For those businesses that are not producing native ads, what would you say the benefits were? What markets are they missing?

KK: I still see plenty of brands simply take an ad from one platform and plop it onto another. What is native to one, by definition, is not native to the other. While it can take a little effort to customize creative, in my experience, that effort always pays off in higher relevance and higher performance.

CZ: What’s the top takeaway from your presentation at ClickZ Live San Francisco going to be?

KK: Too much of digital advertising is forcing square pegs into round holes. I’m going to call us out for that – as an industry – and talk about how to create ads that fit squarely into the mediums of your choice.

Kevin Knight will be speaking at ClickZ Live San Francisco at 2:35 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11 in a session entitled, “Native Ads: The Power of Blending In to Get Noticed,” as part of the Content Innovation Track. To catch Kevin Knight at ClickZ Live San Francisco, get your ticket by registering here!

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