Rocket Mortgage executives first heard the idea over the summer, during a pitch meeting over Zoom with creative agency Highdive.It was still early
Rocket Mortgage executives first heard the idea over the summer, during a pitch meeting over Zoom with creative agency Highdive.
It was still early in the mortgage company’s vetting process, which typically lasts weeks, if not months. But when the call ended, chief marketing officer Casey Hurbis recalls leaning back in his chair and thinking, “Wow, this could be it.”
“That generally doesn’t happen that early in the process,” he told USA TODAY Sports on Monday.
Those early hopes for Rocket Mortgages’ two 60-second Super Bowl commercials came to fruition Monday morning, as the company finished both first and second in USA TODAY’s Ad Meter, which ranks commercials by consumer rating.
It’s the first time since 2007 that one brand has secured the top two spots in Ad Meter.
“I was shocked, yeah,” Highdive co-founder and co-chief creative officer Mark Gross said Monday. “You just never know going in. You think you have something that’s great, but there are 60 spots you’re competing against.
“I really think it was just a very simple idea, and the jokes we happened to write, luckily, were funny and resonated with people.”
Hurbis praised the ad’s message and creative direction, including Morgan’s performance. But he also detailed the massive behind-the-scenes campaign that the company carried out to build buzz around its spots.
Hurbis said Rocket Mortgage set up a “war room” during Super Bowl 55, with 25 socially-distanced employees in the office working to coordinate the company’s social, digital, and public-relations campaigns around both its Super Bowl ads and Super Bowl Squares promotion. Another 60 employees assisted from home.
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Rocket Mortgage also tapped its assorted partners and asked them to help “extend and amplify” its messaging across social media, Hurbis said. Several celebrities and athletes who have business relationships with Rocket Mortgage — and two official team accounts — urged their respective Twitter followers to vote for the company’s commercials on Ad Meter, reaching a combined audience of at least 14 million users.
“You see a lot of brands, if not all brands, do it,” Hurbis said. “It pays dividends in that it takes the message wider, and probably a little bit deeper. Because the fans of Rickie Fowler may be different than the fans of Dave Bautista or Larry Fitzgerald. So it’s the ability to take the creative message wider and build advocacy.”
Rocket Mortgage’s ads, which were directed by veteran Craig Gillespie, aired in the second and third quarters. The first spot featured a cameo from Bautista, the actor and former wrestler, and actress Liza Koshy. The second ad had Los Angeles Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa flipping a car.
Gross and Hurbis both said that Morgan, of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” fame, was heavily involved in the creative process, from working on the script to improvising some of the jokes while on set.
“A lot of times you reach out to celebs and you kind of get a yes and a maybe and then it falls through,” Gross said. “But (Morgan) was committed from the very moment he got the script. Loved the idea. The first moment we spoke to him on our first Zoom, he’s like, ‘Let’s make this great. Let’s make this better than the Super Bowl.'”
Morgan, 52, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY that he was “flattered” that the Rocket Mortgage commercials were written with him in mind, and thought it was important to bring some laughter to the Super Bowl after a trying 2020.
“I love the idea of dramatizing ridiculous life moments when you want to be absolutely certain and not just ‘pretty sure,’ ” he said.
Hurbis said filming the two ads proved to be an arduous process, with a seven-day shoot that included 18 scenes at 14 different locations. There was some stunt work involved, and visual effects that had to be added to the ads in the editing process. Production began shortly after the holidays and ended up being a race to the finish.
“We were doing effects up until the day before,” Gross said. “So yeah, it was crazy.”
Rocket Mortgage’s ads also came with a significant financial investment. CBS charged roughly $5.5 million for a 30-second spot during this year’s game, which would put the price tag for Rocket Mortgage in the $20-million range. Hurbis declined to specify how much the company paid to run the ads but said the figures reported by media outlets were “pretty accurate.”
It was a big swing for a company that was advertising during the Super Bowl for just the fourth time — and a stressful one for Hurbis, albeit with an exciting resolution.
“It’s usually the most painful 60 seconds of a marketer’s life, because you don’t know how the audience will necessarily react,” Hurbis said. “This year was the most tense 120 seconds of my marketing life, bringing two commercials to life.”