Pinterest Is Offering Brands Its Visual Search Technology to Score Large Ad Deals

Target collaboration marks site’s biggest paid media partnership

The retailer has inked a multi-year deal with Pinterest. Target
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Last week, Adweek’s blog Social Pro Daily reported on Pinterest rolling out its visual search technology into Target’s apps and websites. As a part of the deal, Target plans to beef up its ad spend with Pinterest and will test new ad formats coming out of the site.

Now, Adweek has learned that the partnership marks Pinterest’s biggest ad deal to date and is rumored to be valued at more than a few million dollars. Pinterest declined to comment on the value of Target’s ad spend, but the mega-retailer’s ads will run as part of a multi-year deal as the exclusive U.S. retailer using Pinterest Lens.

Target, one of Pinterest’s earliest advertisers, will also receive insights about how consumers use Pinterest that will be used in merchandising products in the U.S.

The visual search technology is Pinterest’s version of AI and human curation that lets consumers snap a picture of IRL things and find similar items online. Taking a picture of a red dress for example, pulls up posts of red dresses that consumers can browse through and shop.

“The idea is to give people enough ideas that are visually related so that they have a new way to identify and search for things,” said Amy Vener, retail vertical strategy lead at Pinterest. “From a visual-discovery perspective, our technology is doing something similar where we’re analyzing within the image the colors, the shapes and the textures to bring that to another level of dimension.”

Starting with registry orders, consumers will soon be able to do the same within Target’s mobile app and website. Someone who points their device’s camera at a baby crib will receive recommendations for similar baby products. Eventually, all of Target’s inventory will be equipped with Pinterest’s technology to allow anyone to scan items in the real world and shop similar items through Target is the first retailer to build Pinterest’s technology into its apps and website, though the site also has a deal to power Bixby, Samsung’s AI app that works similarly.

Unlike Bixby and Pinterest’s own app, the visual search technology has been modified to only identify Target’s own products, meaning that someone searching for a product within Target’s app will not receive a recommended product from Walmart, for instance.

Pinterest is also looking for other brands to create similar deals that power brands’ apps, though Target’s deal is exclusive to the retailers.

“We’re now in a place where we’re using Pinterest as a service to power some visual search for other products,” Vener said. “I think there’s an opportunity for retailers to be a little more of a prominent player when it comes to visual discovery.”

Vener cited recent research from L2 that found only 8 percent of specialty retail brands have integrated a photo search capability into their apps.

A grocery store for instance could use visual search to pull up content about avocados—like Pinterest recipes and beauty tricks for skin care. “It can bring to life a bunch of ideas that you as a consumer wouldn’t have quickly put together,” Vener said.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.