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For decades, marketers have thought of brand and performance campaigns as mutually exclusive. You were either trying to raise brand awareness, or you were trying to sell a product, but never both. Today, the digital era has blurred that once-clear line and, for many brands with dual goals, running a multipurpose campaign can be a win-win.

Take, the billion-dollar online home goods and furniture retailer. Historically, the marketing team had thought of digital video as a brand channel. But early this year, it ran an experiment, mixing regular brand creative with direct-response formats and strategies. The campaign’s return on ad spend was 3X its other campaigns.

Here’s how Overstock and its agency, Ocean Media, did it, what they learned along the way, and why it’s making them rethink how they approach digital video.

The brand marketing component

When it came to the brand marketing component of this campaign, Overstock had one clear goal: making sure customers realize that “overstock” refers to its prices, not the quality of the goods it sells.

To do that, the campaign used a playful approach to show that names can be deceiving. In one ad, a passenger called Oscar LaVista is teased by an airline agent. In another, a man fails to impress a woman at a party after she hears his somewhat unconventional name.

Overstock personalized each of the 15-second pieces of creative. While the first half was one of several funny plays on a person’s name, the second half was tailored to a specific set of products, like furniture, dining, or bedding.

The direct-response marketing component

Then came the magic. As a major performance advertiser, Overstock regularly uses search ads. If someone is browsing online for, say, a table, the company can serve up a relevant ad featuring tables. Using a new YouTube tool, Overstock was able to take this understanding of what customers were actively looking to buy and apply it to video.

The direct-response video campaigns provided a remarkable 80% increase in the conversion rate compared to other campaigns.

If someone on YouTube had previously clicked on a search ad for tables, Overstock could follow up with one of its video ads. Since the customer had already shown interest in the product, the campaign spend was highly efficient. Even better, Overstock served personalized creative assets to each person. So, for instance, that same customer who was in the market for a table would have seen ads featuring dining room furniture.

To make it easy for customers to purchase a product, Overstock used TrueView for action, a direct-response format, placing a call to action underneath the ad that told people to “Shop Now” or “Save Big.” When viewers clicked, they were taken directly to Overstock’s website.  

The combination worked. The direct-response video campaigns provided a remarkable 80% increase in the conversion rate compared to other campaigns.1

What to consider when combining brand and direct response

Combining direct-response and brand-awareness campaigns isn't as tricky as you might think. Here are a few lessons Overstock learned that might be useful for others looking to create direct-response video campaigns:

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1. Not all audiences are created equal

Getting your ads in front of the right audience will take testing. Experiment with keywords to see which ones lead to the most conversions. For instance, after many iterations, Overstock discovered that furniture, outdoor garden and patio, and bedding were its top-performing categories.

2. When it comes to measurement, dig deeper

Some viewers will purchase well after watching the ads. Others might not have been as interested in buying the product as their previous online behavior suggested. For all these reasons, you should always dig into attribution reports to understand how customers engage with your ads across different devices on their path to conversion.

3. Personalize the creative

Campaigns drive the most engagement when viewers see creative that feels personally relevant. Personalization is especially important for direct-response marketing campaigns when you’re asking the viewer to take action right away. That’s why Overstock is making even more specialized creative for different types of product and room categories.