Marketers have been anticipating the release of Pinterest’s API for almost a year. In the interim, a myriad of SaaS tools have sprung up, some in the form of new startups like Pinerly, and others under the umbrella of the now-acquired social SaaS tools from Wildfire, Buddy Media and Vitrue.
Acknowledging that once Pinterest’s API is eventually published, all of these early tools will be irrelevant, Pinerly has smartly transitioned into a new form of image-based advertising. While in San Francisco’s Plug and Play accelerator program, Pinerly changed its name to Reachli, expanded its tools beyond Pinterest to Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, and raised seed capital from a long list of angel investors to focus on image-based marketing. 500 startups, PNP Ventures, William Lohse an early Pinterest backer, Howard Love, Saeed Amidi, GVA ventures, ZelkovaVC and Philquo Ventures invested.
Reachli now has access to images on the websites of more than 700 publishers. The company’s algorithms identify categories of images and suggest them to advertisers. Then, advertisers can buy an ad for the image that is basically a text link that appears when a user rolls over the image with their cursor. The idea is that the link will direct users to something relevant to the image — a home goods sale if it’s a photo of an interior, for example. It reminds me of the layover ads you see on YouTube videos, only much more relevant, and only appearing when you roll over. More than 100 advertisers have experimented with the new format.
A focus on visuals is smart — thanks to Pinterest and the resulting Great Pinterestification of the web, that’s the direction all browsing is going. Even a text-heavy trade publication like PandoDaily now presents its content in an image-driven format.
However, Reachli’s tools will most likely need to be used in addition to an advertiser’s full suite of robust social media advertising tools. But a frankensteined together mishmash of software from 10 different starts, on 10 different dashboards, is not what Chief Marketing Officers want for their teams. The opposite, in fact. Social media marketing operations are becoming increasingly complex, and many companies are calling for advanced, customized solutions that go beyond your basic self-serve, out-of-the-box implementation. Even the tools of the big three — Buddy Media, Vitrue and Wildfire — will need to quickly evolve to meet the changing needs of their customers.
Reachli’s goal for now is to be the anyman’s image-based ad solution, with a focus on ease of use. It’s not a bad play. As the cost of Google search keywords becomes too expensive for small, local businesses, they’ll be looking for opportunities. It just so happens that images are, now more than ever, the most prominent form of communication on the web. Reachli is in a solid position to own that young market.