Pinterest is testing a new premium video ad format on its app's search tab

Pinterest has begun alpha testing a new advertising product that allows brands to reach consumers from a more prominent position within the company's mobile app. With the "Premiere Spotlight" ad, as the new format is currently being called, advertisers will gain access to a premium placement for 24 hours on the Pinterest app's search page. This allows them to reach Pinterest users as they use one of the app's key features -- the ability to search for pins, inspiration and ideas.

You can see the new ad format now in the most recent version of the Pinterest mobile app, where Kohl's is currently advertising women's spring apparel.

In addition to a short video that plays overlaid by text, there's also a button that takes you to Kohl's website. The site opens within the Pinterest app, not as a separate tab. From there, Pinterest users can browse the retailer's product suggestions, search for other items, add items to their cart and check out -- just as they could if visiting Kohl's website directly.

For years, Pinterest has catered to advertisers by allowing them to create Pins featuring products or ideas that they pay to promote and target to different audiences. These pins then appear within the Pinterest home feed and within relevant search results. But many Pinterest users don't open the app to browse the feed, nor are they looking for a specific product. Instead, they head to the search page to type in a more general query. Today, 97% of searches on Pinterest are unbranded, company data indicates.

The new format would allow advertisers to capture these new customers -- including those who may not have previously seen their ad if they weren't among the targeted audience.

Image Credits: Pinterest app screenshot

Though the ads are sold in 24-hour blocks, it would be possible for marketers to book the ads back-to-back to hold the top spot even longer.

As an alpha test, the ad pricing is not yet being shared as it could potentially change between now and a more public launch. Kohl's will be followed by other pilot testers across various categories, including those interested in promoting a product launch or aiming to capitalize on seasonal moments, as Kohl's is with its spring fashion trends. Likely, there will be some curation in terms of which brands and type of creatives will be permitted here. All ads will also feature Pinterest's max width video format.

Pinterest confirmed the ad pilot with a statement.

“We’re constantly looking for ways for advertisers to reach the people who come to Pinterest with commercial intent," a spokesperson said. "As we continue to build a suite of products to drive performance across the full funnel, we’re exploring a new takeover feature that showcases a brand in a new premium, exclusive placement.”

Image Credits: Pinterest app screenshot

Over the past couple of years, Pinterest has been working to adapt to the growing interest in video from both consumers and advertisers alike. While originally an image pinboarding website, the company shifted into video with the launch of Idea Pins in 2021, which offer creators a more TikTok-like experience. Last year, it enabled marketers to turn their Idea Pins into ads. This year, the company pushed further into short-form video territory through a new agreement with Condé Nast, which will produce 160 exclusive videos for the site from top brands Vogue and Architectural Digest.

During its Q4 earnings call earlier last month, Pinterest remarked that it had grown its supply of video content by 30% quarter-over-quarter, adding that high-quality content would help to better engage users, particularly Gen Z.

"Monetization per user should also be driven by our ads initiatives," said CEO Bill Ready, who last year joined Pinterest from Google, where he headed its commerce initiatives. "Pinterest is unique because users come to our platform with intent, and we are one of the few places where people can go from seeking inspiration to fulfilling that intent through action," Ready added.

However, Pinterest's shares dipped after earnings as it missed on revenue with $877 million versus the expected $886.3 million, and it forecast growth only in the low single digits in the first quarter of 2023.

Despite the revenue struggles -- which are not unique to the company given the economic downturn -- Pinterest has been seeing more traction with users. It noted its global monthly active users were up 4% year-over-year to 450 million and average revenue per user was up 6% in North America. Gen Z has become particularly fond of the service, and was again Pinterest's fastest-growing demographic in Q4, also accounting for nearly half of its video content pinned during the quarter.

Video ads may be able to better appeal to those younger users than image Pins, as they're used to being inspired to shop from video elsewhere, including through TikTok, Reels and YouTube.

Pinterest did not say when the new ad format would be available more broadly.