Why the Rocket Mortgage Superbowl Commercial Was a Disaster

One of the things we learned during this year's Super Bowl is that paying millions of dollars for an ad spot is evidently worth every penny -- if you want to tick people off and start a social brouhaha.

In its first-ever Super Bowl commercial, Detroit-based Quicken Loans created a 60-second TV spot showcasing Rocket Mortgage, its online mortgage platform. Quicken took advantage of the massive audience and executed a commercial with relatively good production value. They had to - it's the Super Bowl, you go big or you don't spend the dough. What Quicken didn't do, however, is think about the message their commercial portrayed. And that massive audience promptly proceeded to shout their outrage from our current, biggest cultural rooftop, Twitter. The claim? Rocket Mortgage's slick but slightly irrational exuberance would re-collapse the American housing market.

Peeved fans and sub-prime trauma survivors alike were joined by Elizabeth Spiers, the CEO of Everup, a digital wellness portal, who launched a counteroffensive on Twitter, who was then joined by Alexandra Mondalek of Time Money who decided Spiers' Tweet was an opening shot. Mondalek proceeded to decry Quicken's ad as the coming of the housing apocalypse and then tossed out that term: "housing bubble."

Many of us in the industry felt like we were watching an avalanche in real-time. The thread on Twitter rolled on, taking everyone down with it. Even Jacob Brogan, who writes about technology and culture for Slate, opened his coverage quoting April Siese at Bustle, who called Quicken "tone deaf" in her headline, and referred to "several financial experts," none of whom are actually connected to finance. Finally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau jumped in with a vaguely "after-school special" tweet: "When it comes to #mortgages, take your time, ask questions and #knowbeforeyouowe."

As the dust has settled a bit, Quicken's offending commercial prompted me to reconsider issues raised by Adam Mackay's film, 'The Big Short' and how we at PoL design our marketing communications.

Critics accuse Quicken of ignoring the lessons of 2008 in the same way that 'The Big Short' rubbed salt in old wounds for many. Quicken could have very well aired their spot in 2005 when Americans were flush with the idea of owning as many homes as possible and practicing fiscal irresponsibility with greater flourish.

There's a lot missing from this commercial.

To my mind, Quicken's spot inadvertently insults the vanishing middle-class who haven't seen a rise in average pay since before Elway was actually playing. Quicken's "Super Bowl moment" comes at the cost of ignoring that wages for the middle-class are stagnant. I'd ask Quicken, "Where exactly do you expect these people, now that you have them jazzed, to find the down payment for that house? Does your product actually work for people with less-than perfect credit? Or for people caught in a cycle of contract work, with no easy W2 to upload?"

A Missed Opportunity

One might say Quicken took the quick hand-off and went straight up the middle. In doing so, they missed an opportunity. Quicken went for the long, down-field pass and missed the receiver. The result is that they appear to not have enough respect for the consumer to discuss pain points, value added services and building trust. Quicken should have demonstrated that technology can make a painful, ugly and frustrating process much easier, but instead went for Madison Avenue flash.

Quicken Loan's product, is one powered by technology, one meant to make life easier, to make the "I want to tear my hair out" experience of getting a mortgage simple. Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions a person will make in their lifetime. Financial technology and the transparency and ease online processing can bring to mortgage lending, is indisputable.

Being part of an industry that was created specifically for the creation of jobs, for the perpetuation of small businesses, for the new avenues to access capital -- and all of it happening online -- The JOBS Act was designed to stimulate job creation and some online finance companies have been operating under this new legislation to provide capital and credit to thousands of Americans. Credit - no matter how easy it could be to get on a phone - does not create jobs. And, if given too freely, it creates irresponsible demand for things that we cannot afford, much less need.

We should be talking about ethical practices, neighborhood revitalization, community revival and betterment through responsible lending. At Patch of Land, we talk about how the loans we make to real estate professionals, such as rehabbers, actually create jobs. We speak to lending as a service for hard working professionals, to transparency for all platform customers and for a secure, simple process.

For advertisers and brands alike, the Super Bowl commercials are as important, if not more than, the game itself. Brands build up their campaigns for months leading up to the day of the Big Game-- including broadcast, YouTube and social media assets. Video in particular is considered by some to be the most effective means of engaging with the fragmented attention span of today's consumer. It's also a quick way to communicate a brand's value proposition and message. As marketers, it's difficult not to get caught up in the hype.

However, it's our responsibility to think beyond the superficial engagement of just eyeballs and clicks more than ever, Quicken Loans president and CMO, Jay Farner felt the campaign was a success, stating, "The win was driving folks to the site." Frankly, that barometer for success just doesn't cut it. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

This post was originally published on The Huffington Post