Imgur Plans to Dive Into Promoted Posts in 2015

Hires former Pinterest marketer to lead initiative

Imgur doesn't just want to be the online destination for people to look at memes: It wants to be the place brands call home as well. To further appeal to marketers, newly hired vp of market development Steve Patrizi said the image-sharing platform will likely launch Promoted Posts in July 2015.

"Rather than doing wallpaper stuff or crazy banners, we think there's something very powerful that can come from a brand that's not overly commercialized, that looks and feels like other posts there," Patrizi said.

There's much buzz around Imgur, which raised $40 million through venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz earlier this year. Since it launched in 2009, it has quickly grown to be the hot spot for viral pictures. According to the company, more than 150 million users browse its pages, and it gets upward of 60 billion views a month. Users spend an average 10 minutes on the website.

The company announced Patrizi's new role Thursday as part of a plan to grow its native ad business in 2015. Previously, Patrizi was head of partner marketing at Pinterest, and he helped build marketing solutions at LinkedIn.

While Imgur has offered ad packages, called Sponsored Posts, to brand marketers in the past, Patrizi explained these were mostly experimental. (The goal he said, was to learn best practices for native ads without upsetting the San Francisco company's loyal readership.) It previously told Adweek that its native ads had an engagement rate of between 1 percent and 4 percent

Unlike Sponsored Posts, which were usually promoted on Imgur's homepage, Promoted Posts will pop up after users click on regular content. Patrizi explained the company moved away from homepage ads in order to reach more users (and annoy fewer of them). And algorithms will ensure readers won't see the same ad during the same visit, although they may see different posts from the same marketer.

Brands won't be able to target a Promoted Post to a specific demographic; they'll have to advertise to all readers. But Patrizi said the move will benefit brands. Because Imgurians are a community, they're more likely to talk about an ad they all see, rather than one that pops up for a handful of them. 

Currently, Imgur is looking for 10 to 12 partners to test out Promoted Posts. Ideally, Patrizi believes brands that fall within the gaming and technology; media and entertainment; and consumer packaged-goods umbrellas will resonate the most with its audience.