Pinterest’s plan to win over agency creatives

Pinterest’s head of brand and agency strategy Kevin Knight administered a simple test on Tuesday. Splashed on an extra-large screen monitor behind him were two “pins,” Pinterest posts, of nearly identical women’s loose knit sweaters. Before him sat a crowd of young staffers from creative agency BBDO, casually snacking on finger sandwiches and salads.

They were asked to guess which pin performed best. The differences between the two were negligible — both were grey sweaters on white backgrounds — save for the copy attached. The one on the left gave a lengthy explanation of how the top should be worn, while the one on the right simply read “Grey Loose Knit Sweater.”

A slide from Knight's pitch to BBDO staffers.
A slide from Knight’s pitch to BBDO staffers.

The pin on the left was likely to see better engagement with users because it was more descriptive, Knight said.

“If you’re a trust funder living in SoHo, you already know how to pull this off. For everyone else, this pin tells you how to wear this,” Knight said, eliciting audible laughter from the New York agency’s group of planners, account managers, producers and, most importantly, creatives.

The lesson here was that the best pins are helpful. And it was just one of many tidbits Knight tried to teach the group as part of his ongoing mission to educate the agency world in all things Pinterest.

He has conducted at least one educational session with agencies a week since joining Pinterest two years ago, he said. But with Pinterest ramping up its monetization efforts — the company is developing a “buy” button that will allow users to buy directly from the site as well as a new ad unit — Knight is hoping to do less teaching this year and start guiding agencies through actual brand campaigns.

“Up until now my strategy was to make sure as many agencies have enough information about Pinterest as possible,” Knight told Digiday after the session. “We wanted to establish a baseline. This year, as the team grows and we’re working with bigger brands, we want to make sure we’re working more closely on the execution.”

Knight said he initially focused on evangelizing Pinterest to strategists at agencies in hopes they would push for Pinterest in the initial planning stages for campaigns. Now Knight wants to win over the creatives. And to that end, he has tailored his presentation to highlight Pinterest’s creative nuances.

While the edict on Pinterest is to make pins as helpful as possible, copywriters don’t necessarily have to adhere to rules about brevity. The more descriptive a pin is, the better, Knight said. It makes them more discoverable, an important factor given how often Pinterest is used as if it were a search engine.

Being succinct is more important, however, when laying text over a photo, he added.Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 5.18.38 PM

And as for images themselves, the debate over using a white background or a “grainy, hipster” filter is irrelevant; there’s no statistical indication that one performs better than the other, according to Knight.

Knight’s sessions are important given the pressure on Pinterest to prove its worth as an advertising platform. Pinterest only began pitching its ads to agencies less than a year ago, but research firm Forrester criticized Pinterest last month for not providing enough value to brands.

That pressure only stands to increase now that Pinterest is looking to raise an additional $500 million in funding at a $11 billion valuation.

For BBDO at least, the pitch has resonated. BBDO is planning a Pinterest campaign for client Lowe’s, hoping to take advantage of Pinterest’s popularity among home improvement aficionados and do-it-yourselfers.

Alex Marsh, BBDO’s director of social, said, “Now that we’ve built the case for being on Pinterest, it’s about bringing the creatives in the room.”

Image courtesy Pinterest

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