James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you one of my favorite C Space Studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas, and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 


Welcome back. You're in the C Space Studio here at CES 2024. I am James Kotecki, and joining me is Sabrina Ellis, the chief product officer at Pinterest. Thanks for joining us. 

Sabrina Ellis (00:34): 

Thank you for having me. 

James Kotecki (00:36): 

So I think many people who click on this or are watching this live will probably have some idea of what Pinterest is or what they think it is, but I always like to ask people to define their brands, especially from someone inside the company. What does Pinterest mean in this moment right now? 

Sabrina Ellis (00:48): 

Sure. Look, it's kind of inherent. I mean, Pinterest's mission is really to bring everyone the inspiration to create the life that they love. And that stays true, and that's actually over time. 

James Kotecki (01:03): 

And your role as chief product officer, how is that defined? What is your scope? What are you thinking about day to day? 

Sabrina Ellis (01:08): 

Sure. Overall, you look at that mission. We listen to users, we look at the technology that's available, and we think about bringing all those together. How can we really deliver that most easily to users? 

James Kotecki (01:21): 

The central, I guess, premise or the user experience of Pinterest, the core of it remains relatively unchanged or at least in people's minds as they're expecting it? You go around the web and you can pin things, and you can bring them back to Pinterest and create collections of things that you're interested in. Am I fairly summarizing it for... I'm just trying to make sure I cover the few people out there who have never heard of Pinterest. 

Sabrina Ellis (01:44): 

Sure. Pinterest started that way. It was very much more of a collection. I would say now it's actually slightly shifted. More of our audience is actually on the app. And so what happens is that they come looking for inspiration. So it's not as much on them. They actually are finding that they come, they have ideas, and then they look to Pinterest to actually have those visual, both image and video, to actually bring that to life. 

James Kotecki (02:08): 

I mean, it's an obvious way for brands to play in that space, to have those collections, those curations, those suggestions for people who are already there and natively looking for it. 

Sabrina Ellis (02:16): 


James Kotecki (02:17): 

Thinking about AI, and I just want to ask everybody about AI here at CES 2024, because that's all anyone's talking about, right? So tell me about ways that you're thinking about AI, and I'd love to know maybe some of the ways it's in the product right now. Obviously the definition of AI might be a good place to start, so we make sure we're talking about the same thing. 

Sabrina Ellis (02:33): 

AI in our context, a lot of it is thinking again about that visual curation and computational vision. So with AI, it's allowed us to actually process all of it so much more efficiently and effectively. So you think about specific ways that that can manifest. One is for users, you can actually say, they always see images and they say, "Look, I know what I like when I see it, but what are the words put to that?" Well, with AI, we can actually help them actually define those, categorize them, and put those in. 


I mean, other ways that we can is really thinking about how we can actually build more diversity and inclusion on our product. When you have the ability to curate and classify using AI all of the imagery, then we can do things like say, "Hey, if we want to have more diversity in skin tone, more diversity in hair pattern, more diversity in body type, now AI's unlocked our ability to do that. 

James Kotecki (03:26): 

And that's a great thing to unlock with AI, which has gotten knocked for sometimes being biased in certain other cases, depending on the data that you're training it with, obviously. If that data is biased, you may get biased results. So are you on the lookout for that? Have you built with those things in mind to counteract those effects? 

Sabrina Ellis (03:43): 

Yeah, look, that's a huge factor, and we found that the most when we were looking at body type technology. First of all, AI really helped us because you got to look at size, you got to look at form, all of that to actually be able to classify. But as we were doing it, you're right, the AI models exist today, they're very biased and it's just going to amplify it. So what we did was we recognized that we actually needed to bring in human experts to actually help with that curation. 

James Kotecki (04:06): 


Sabrina Ellis (04:06): 

Because if you think about body, look, it's super sensitive. Even the vocabulary you're using, it's like, look, is the word curvy, is it good? Is it not? Is the word stocky? Some people like it, some people hate it. So we actually really talked to people and said, "What's the vocabulary that you like? What are the types of categories you should have? How many categories should there even be?" And with all of that, we brought that with AI to actually be more responsible about how we deliver. 

James Kotecki (04:30): 

And that's one answer to a very large question, which is what do people do in the age of AI? If AI can seemingly do many things that people used to do or can operate at such a high level, where do people fit into the equation? It sounds like what you're saying is folks are now in the equation for having those conversations around diversity and inclusion that wouldn't necessarily have been contributing in the past because the technology didn't exist. So technology opens up... Maybe it closes down some things that people don't necessarily want to do, but it opens up other things. 

Sabrina Ellis (04:55): 

That's exactly right. You hit the nail on the head. We actually needed that technology to even enable us to have the conversation to get that feedback to deliver the right product. 

James Kotecki (05:04): 

I'm interested in the language piece of this. I mean, you talk about what words are appropriate. And then earlier in this conversation, you talked about AI being able to take things and define in words what people like. It goes from someone saying, "I know what I like," to like, "Oh, I know what I like because now I can read..." Are you talking about literally showing people this is vocabulary if you want to go out there and just figure out other things to search for, this is vocabulary that you can actually use to search for it? 

Sabrina Ellis (05:30): 

Yeah, let me give you an example. A lot of times when you look at home decor, people will say, "Look, I like, like, like, like, like these things," but what does that mean? You might put those together and say, "Actually, you know what? You like Japandi. You might not have known that." 

James Kotecki (05:42): 

Didn't know what that was. 

Sabrina Ellis (05:42): 

Exactly. So we find that twofold. One is people actually like the words because then they can actually even look in other places. They can talk about each other people. The other thing we find is on Pinterest, people feel like they learned about themselves. And then even Japandi, you can actually literally break it down. Do like the minimalism? Do you like the raw wood? What are the elements about it? And actually learn more about it yourself too. 

James Kotecki (06:03): 

I'm reaching way back now, but there's some kind of linguistic concept I think about this where it's like something can become real if there's a word for it. I think in a totally different context, if you have a disease and you can't describe it, oh, there's a word for that thing that I'm feeling or experiencing, and now I can go and engage with a community around that. So it sounds like something similar there. 

Sabrina Ellis (06:21): 

Exactly. It actually makes it real. People, again, they feel actually like they've learned something about themselves. That's a lot about what we want to focus on on Pinterest. We have actually done studies with external groups, and people actually feel better after using Pinterest for just 10 minutes a day. 


You don't see that on many sites out there, and that's something that we really strive to do. We want it to be positive. We want to actually keep it in that way where we're actually increasing well-being. I just don't think many people are doing that right now. 

James Kotecki (06:48): 

Where does the element of surprise fit in? So if I know that I like Japandi, how do we make sure that you don't just serve me that? And maybe you serve me up a few curveballs of things I never would've thought I would've liked and maybe I do. 

Sabrina Ellis (06:59): 

Yeah, I think there's a couple of things. Maybe there'll be curveballs, but maybe they'll also just be very logical related things too. 

James Kotecki (07:05): 

It seemed like curveballs, but not to maybe a more advanced AI. 

Sabrina Ellis (07:09): 

Well, I think we have more confidence in what it is that you've actually defined about your style. Two things. One, you've defined about your taste, what you like, and the more that we can understand too about your lifestyle and what is going to work for you. Do you have small kids? Maybe a glass coffee table isn't going to be the best thing. Those are all the things that will help us suggest and recommend the things that are going to resonate best with you. 

James Kotecki (07:30): 

One of the other themes at CES is digital health. Health is a huge component of the show, as usual. What kind of things can the world of content teach the world of digital health? Vice versa? Where's the intersection there? 

Sabrina Ellis (07:41): 

I think for us, where we really invest in the digital health is actually on the mental well-being. We really try to keep Pinterest such a positive site. As I was saying, on an annual basis we work with a third party where they evaluate all of the different sites, but certainly ours to say, "How is it that you actually keep it positive?" 


We keep that in mind as we develop all of our features. And so we're always trying to do that where people actually, again, learning about themselves, furthering all of the hobbies and interests that they have, and trying to keep up that mental health and well-being. 

James Kotecki (08:11): 

An interesting focus. I know that you worked on the Google Pixel phone in the past. 

Sabrina Ellis (08:16): 

I did. 

James Kotecki (08:16): 

That's obviously a physical product, something you can hold in your hand. Pinterest is more of an experience that you have maybe when you're using one of those devices. Has there been something surprising in moving from the world of a physical product to moving to the world of Pinterest? Has there been an interesting learning in that transition? 

Sabrina Ellis (08:31): 

Yeah, so I've actually worked in consumer space for decades, so I've actually done both digital and physical. I'll tell you one of the things that coming back to the digital space is you can move faster. I mean, no matter what, even when we are doing more software updates on the phones, it's still probably more of a quarterly update as opposed to something here where we can actually test and iterate much faster. I think when you're actually doing more of the custom personalization when we think about AI. 


We can actually even work with marketers and say, "Let's look at your product. But you know what? With this user, we actually may know that it's going to resonate better with this type of background, in this type of lifestyle imagery." That is the type of thing that you can actually really test, iterate, and show very quickly in the purely digital space. 

James Kotecki (09:20): 

We are at a show that has plenty of physical products on display here. Is there something, maybe it's out on the show floor now, maybe just something that you're aware of that you're thinking about for Pinterest in terms of ways that people might be experiencing Pinterest in the near future or in the distant future? 


C Space is a speculative place, so feel free to speculate if you want. But I'm just curious, are there other, I don't know, modalities to use a ridiculous word here? But are there other ways of thinking about Pinterest as we see devices evolve? 

Sabrina Ellis (09:49): 

It's kind of interesting when you think about where you might want this type of content. Unlike many of the other sites where it's actually more lean back content, actually Pinterest is something that's more lean forward. So you have to look at those interfaces more, whether it would be something that's more flexible as far as... 


Your phones are already very portable. Will actually wearables actually offer you the opportunity to actually collect more information so that we know what types of things will actually be more inspirational to you? I think those are the types of things that could be more interesting. 

James Kotecki (10:20): 

Sabrina Ellis of Pinterest, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Sabrina Ellis (10:23): 

Thank you. 

James Kotecki (10:25): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CES 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button. Leave a comment. Follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeartMedia, or wherever you're getting this show. And get more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S.T-E-C-H. I'm James Kotecki taking tech on CES Tech Talk.