It took seven months of development. A nervous ask of a charismatic celebrity. A hastily-purchased dollhouse and a phantom real-estate “listing.”
And finally, a war room of 50 on game night that amplified Rocket Mortgage’s message to the masses and ensured a rather improbable feat: Back-to-back victories in USA TODAY’s Ad Meter, the Super Bowl of big game advertising.
The lending behemoth became the first company to record consecutive wins since Super Sunday king Budweiser three-peated from 2013-15, an upset all the more notable given the highly transactional nature of home loans and a buying landscape perpetually fraught with peril.
Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage – bringing a sister company under the big game umbrella this year – fought those headwinds thanks to a pair of cross-generational icons in Barbie and triple-threat Anna Kendrick, along with a certain win-at-all-costs mentality that leaves nothing to chance, on any platform.
The 60-second spot – during a Super Bowl broadcast asking $6 million to $7 million for 30 seconds – takes Pitch Perfect icon Kendrick into a living room of young girls hoping to score a new house for Barbie, only to find the nightmare of modern homeownership at every corner. Rocket’s suite of products mitigates those hurdles and placed Barbie into her dream Malibu home.
It’s a brief diversion from the minefield facing consumers. And to be clear, Barbie was the lead blocker on the project.
“We’ll look at 100 ideas,” Casey Hurbis, Rocket’s chief marketing officer, told USA TODAY Sports Monday. “What is Super Bowl-worthy and campaign-able? Is it simple? Is it relevant? Is it epic? Is it unexpected? On America’s biggest stage, you have to take a chance to find out.
“We saw early that this opportunity with Barbie and with Anna that a light bulb goes off and you realize, ‘This could happen.’”
In 2021, Rocket Mortgage prevailed with “Certain Is Better,” fronted by a different set of celebrities including comedian Tracy Morgan and Los Angeles Chargers strongman Joey Bosa.
In launching the repeat bid, Hurbis said the ad was conceived well before Rocket approached Kendrick’s camp entering the winter and when they embraced it, “that’s when you know you’re on to a good idea.”
Rocket Mortgage managed to secure a total commitment from Kendrick and Mattel. Kendrick shared a link to USA TODAY’s Ad Meter contest with her 7 million Twitter followers and was active in teasing the spot in the run-up to game day.
Mattel and Barbie’s roughly 500,000 followers did the same. And while there’s no scientific manner with which to track what put the ad over the top – it edged Amazon’s “Mind Reader” by a mere 6.82-6.77 score – Rocket certainly left no stone veneer unturned.
Hurbis sounds a bit like Al Pacino’s Coach Tony D’Amato in “Any Given Sunday” when he speaks of “the inches we look for in the Super Bowl that can amplify your brand, your 60 seconds in the spotlight.”
In this case, it was an ad rep far from the C-suite who came up with the idea to create an active listing for Barbie’s house on Rocket’s web site – “1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 pink slide” – as an Easter egg for the curious. That only gave more fodder for Hurbis’ staff of 60 – working from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET – to flood the social media zone and best position Rocket to conquer a 64-spot field.
Ad Meter, in its 34th year, ranks commercials by consumer rating with registered voters scoring each ad on a 1-to-10 scale.
“There’s a lot of great competition,” says Hurbis. “A chance for every brand to put its best self forward. The stakes are high, the investment is big and the court of public opinion can be loud. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s the most intense 60 seconds of my year.”
And in less than six months, it will be go time for a bid to threepeat in 2023.