Purple Mattress: ‘Views Don’t Mean Much If People Don’t Take Action’

Rob Towne, director of performance marketing at Purple Mattress

After this exclusive first look for subscribers, the story by AdExchanger’s Allison Schiff will be published in full on AdExchanger.com.

Mattress startup Purple doesn’t run unskippable video ads.

“If someone’s on YouTube and ready to watch a video of their choosing, but you’re forcing them watch 30 seconds of ads first – that’s a brand imposing their will on the viewer,” said Rob Towne, director of performance marketing at Purple Mattress.

“As a brand, we choose to let customers decide for themselves,” he said.

One way to do that is to make the video experience fully opt in, which makes that engagement more valuable for both the viewer and the brand.

“If you give consumers autonomy to interact with an ad on their terms, it leads to better outcomes rather than us dictating what their next behavior needs to be,” Towne said.

Towne spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Purple has become known for its quirky, viral video ad creative. But no one can guarantee virality. What’s your goal with video?

ROB TOWNE: It starts with knowing that the creative needs to drive towards an end result. Creative for the sake of creative is nice, but that won’t sustain a business. Some businesses put out one type of video that’s for direct response and another that’s for branding without a call to action. We like to blend the two, and we work very closely with our in-house team and a lot of outside agencies to make that possible.

But it’s not just about being performance oriented, it’s about doing so in a way that’s still entertaining. Skips are inevitable if you fail to entertain the people you’re reaching.

What’s Purple’s process for developing and testing video creative so that you’re confident it’ll drive performance?

You need to get everyone to agree that experimentation is important, and then you have to believe in the data. That starts with knowing ahead of time that some pieces aren’t going to work, and that’s okay. You’ve got to push some boundaries. It’s possible to reach people in novel ways while still thinking about brand safety and keeping your message consistent.

We look at a piece of video creative extending vertically into the funnel, which is why we try to be as entertaining as possible and why some of our ads are longer than others you’ll see. We hook people at the top of the funnel, make them aware that there’s a problem we can solve and lead them down into consideration and through the decision-making process.

How exactly are you able to fuse branding and performance?

Video is supplemented and enhanced by every other marketing channel – by what we do on YouTube, linear TV, radio, podcasts, social media, search and display advertising. By bringing those pieces together in a cohesive way, people can transition from seeing a video to getting a Google ad the next time they’re looking for a mattress online, or seeing a sponsored placement the next time they’re scrolling through social media.

That’s extremely important in our industry, because we have a longer consideration phase. It might take weeks or even months or a year between when someone finds out about us and when they pull the trigger.

But we also really need to find the right audience. If you don’t target people who are already showing certain behaviors, like looking for furniture, buying a new house or getting married, we could be reaching them before they’re ready. Audience and reach are as important as the creative.

What specific KPIs are you trying to drive with video?

The KPI we live by is return on ad spend, but to get there we have to monitor views, completion rates and the clickthrough rate. Views don’t mean much if people don’t take action, though. Impressions are only a proxy for actual performance.

You’ve recently started experimenting with interactive video. How’s that going?

We’ve been using a video advertising company called VDX.tv for standard online video and display for a few years. More recently, we’ve been running heavily with their interactive ad formats, which allow us to create video experiences for our customers that are outside what you might normally get with other DSPs.

We can let consumers tell us when they’re ready to interact. If an ad isn’t compelling to someone in the moment they’re seeing it, we’re wasting their time and our budget. But when you hover over one of the VDX units, it expands and gives you the option to turn on the sound and interact with a microsite.

How will you evolve your video strategy this year?

We’ve seen growth despite the economic slowdown, and we need to increase our production and fulfillment capabilities to meet that demand. But we’re also expanding beyond only being known as a mattress company. We have a full assortment of products now, from sheets, mattress protectors and pillows to pajamas and seat cushions.

The challenge in 2021 is to help people who are already familiar with Purple as a mattress company understand what else we have to offer, and video will really be able to help us with that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.