'Advertising today isn’t just about reach': why Pinterest is not selling ads in APAC yet

The Singapore office will start with a small team of local talent and support relationships with brands and publishers.

Pinterest sees the Asia Pacific region as an opportunity to grow its user base, as well as to partner with brands, publishers and creators by helping them increase engagement with their audiences through content and execution of their ideas.

In addition, Ayumi Nakajima, the country manager for South East Asia and India at Pinterest tells The Drum that the platform wants to help brands to tell their story, engage with consumers across the entire customer journey and drive key business results including awareness, customer acquisition and retention.

“The more culturally relevant content we have on Pinterest, the better the experience it is for people to find ideas to get offline to buy or try, and the better experience it is for content creators who will increase engagement,” explains Nakajima.

“We’ve already invested in improving the quality of the experience for users so that we’re offering more relevant ideas that are meaningful in both language and culture such as hijab fashion or buka puasa recipes or Diwali decoration ideas.”

The platform, which filed for IPO in February, is opening a second office in APAC in Singapore to boost and grow its presence. This is its second office in the region and will service SEA and India. It currently has a team in Japan based in its Tokyo office, which opened in 2013.

The Singapore office will start with a small team of local talent led by Nakajima and support relationships with brands and publishers to make sure Pinterest offers the best-localized experience for people from different cultures throughout the region.

The Pinterest Singapore team has already worked with regional partners such as Vogue India and Miss Malini in India and MasakTV, Tastemade and Femina Magazine in Indonesia. MasakTV partnered with Pinterest during Ramadan season this year, helping its users in Indonesia to find inspiration for recipes to break their fast.

It claimed that the campaign doubled MasakTV’s Indonesian audience in six weeks, including a new audience of younger females, which is a different audience from who MasakTV typically reaches on other platforms.

“As one of our fastest growing regions, we see an opportunity to increase our reach in APAC as well as to increase engagement - we already see more than seven million ideas saved each day across these countries. Building a team based in Singapore will enable us to build relationships across the region to enhance the experience for our users even more,” explains Nakajima.

“With its diverse talent pool and vibrant tech scene, Singapore is a global business hub and a great place for us to build a team that can service the region. We already have a growing number of millions of users in APAC and it’s one of our fastest growing regions. There is also a strong opportunity for businesses based here to connect with this audience on Pinterest.”

She adds: “By having our office in Singapore, we’re able to hire a team from many backgrounds in the region such as India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and Singapore who bring knowledge of working with partners in these countries.”

Nakajima notes Pinterest’s users and businesses are aligned, including non-ad content. For example, in APAC, people come to Pinterest to discover things such as ideas for their wardrobe, for their home, for their next holiday and even for what gifts to buy. That means advertisers want to be discovered, which means there is a natural alignment on Pinterest between users and advertisers, she says.

In addition, billions of searches happen on Pinterest every month, she claims, which means advertisers can inspire consumers early in the decision-making process to bring their ideas to life and potentially turn them into customers.

However, she says Pinterest will not sell ads in APAC at the moment, unlike what it is currently doing in the United States.

“Our mission is to make ads as relevant as non-ad content. We want to show people the right idea at the right time. And, often on Pinterest, that’s early in the process when people have an idea of what they want, but haven’t decided on a brand,” explains Nakajima.

“We’re in the early stages of bringing our ad offering to more countries globally and have nearly tripled the number of countries in which we serve ads over the past year, going from seven to 19 countries during the past 12 months. We currently don’t have timing for launching ads in APAC.”

Even though it will not sell ads in APAC for the time being, Nakajima says the platform is still keen to ensure brand safety for advertisers when the time comes.

She says Pinterest’s policies reflect the mission of its company, which is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love. That means being focused on inspiration naturally sets a high bar for what we do and don’t allow on Pinterest.

“We know that if we can create a positive, welcoming place for our users, it will also be good for our advertisers. Because advertising today isn’t just about reach, it’s about reaching the customer in the most relevant and safe place, and offering them something useful,” she adds.

“We know not everything on the Internet is safe or inspiring, and we’re comfortable saying we aren’t the place for something that isn’t aligned with our mission.”

Marketers like Oliver Yonchev, the US managing editor of Social Chain, have previously said Pinterest needs to fix and evolve the scalability of its adtech because it currently offers limited targeting and cannot be plugged into media agencies' digital buying platforms with ease.

With e-commerce exploding in APAC, Pinterest also has not evolved as quickly as other platforms to compete in the social commerce space. For example, Instagram recently rolled out a beta shoppable experience where users do not have to leave the platform.

This means Pinterest will have to solve these issues for advertisers when and if it finally launches its ad offerings in APAC.

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