Pinterest Will Test First Ad Units, Promises Transparency

CEO: definitely no banners

Pinterest plans to test a promoted unit product with a select group of undisclosed businesses as it dips its toes into advertising for the first time. Ben Silbermann, CEO of the social media company, revealed the plan on the company's blog today.

Silbermann tried to preempt any user fears that such a move might mean a splattering of promos on the images-centric platform. "I know some of you may be thinking," he wrote, "'Oh great…here come the banner ads.' But we're determined to not let that happen."

Instead, his San Francisco-based tech firm avows that the paid pins will be relevant to users' interests and transparently marked to visually differentiate them from organic content. Silbermann said his team will also avoid banners and pop-ups. 

"For our first test, we'll promote a few pins in search results and category feeds," he explained. "For example, a pin for a Darth Vader outfit from a costume shop might be promoted in a search for 'Halloween.' Nobody's paying for anything yet—we want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think."

Fashion retailers and magazine publishers—which seem to have taken to Pinterest more than other niches—will no doubt be eager to see how the paid pins work.

Per comScore, Pinterest had 25.6 million U.S. unique visitors via desktop in August, up only 3 percent compared to the same month last year. "The site's hyper-growth really occurred in 2011 and 2012," said a rep for the researcher.

But while Silbermann & Co.'s Web-based traffic appears to have plateaued, comScore finds that Pinterest's mobile traffic is exploding, jumping from 9 million unique visitors in January to 24 million in July (August mobile data isn't available yet).

Meanwhile, with Advertising Week afoot, industry watchers can probably cross Pinterest off the social media platform list in terms of making a big splash.

Will Tumblr or Instagram pick up the slack and reveal ad innovations? Stay tuned.

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