This Independent Shop Created 2 of the Most Popular Super Bowl Ads

Highdive worked on Jeep's 'Groundhog Day' and Rocket Mortgage's 'Comfortable'

jason momoa lifting his shirt and peeling off a muscle suit on the left and bill murray with a groundhog on his lap
Though a small shop, Highdive collaborated with brands to create two break-out spots. Rocket Mortgage, Jeep
Headshot of Erik Oster

What do two of this year’s most successful Super Bowl ads have in common? They were created by the same small independent agency: Chicago’s Highdive.

The agency was behind both Jeep’s “Groundhog Day” ad starring Bill Murray and Rocket Mortgage’s “Comfortable” starring Jason Momoa. Both ads were named to Adweek’s list of “The 10 Best Super Bowl Ads of 2020” (at numbers one and 1o, respectively); “Groundhog Day” also topped USA Today’s Ad Meter, with “Comfortable” coming in at No. 5.

A full-service creative shop launched in 2016 by DDB veterans Mark Gross and Chad Broude, who both serve as CCOs.

Highdive declined a request for interview at this time, expressing a desire for Jeep and Rocket Mortgage to have the spotlight. However, both brands spoke with Adweek about the process of working with a boutique agency.

Reviving a classic in three days 

In the case of Jeep, the agency helped the brand bring to life an ad that didn’t begin shooting until 10 days before the Super Bowl and almost didn’t air.

FCA Group CMO and global president of Fiat Olivier François said that Highdive was the right agency to partner with on its Super Bowl effort amid such challenging circumstances, bringing the idea to life in about three days.

“I like that about Highdive—it’s a small team, they’re reactive,” he said.

He added that Highdive assisted the brand on the legal side with Sony as well, as it took everything falling into place (including a last-minute media buy) for the ad to see the light of day.

“I must say I knew they were good, creatively speaking,” François said, but that the agency exceeded his expectations.

Getting comfortable with Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage’s Super Bowl ad also went through production on a short timeframe, with the brand reaching an agreement with actor Jason Momoa in December and shooting the spot, which required extensive CGI post-production, the first week of January.

The concept, however, stretched back to the summer. Rocket Mortgage went over 150 ideas, Quicken Loans CMO Casey Hurbis explained, including from its internal creative team and a number of holding company agencies. It became clear early on that Highdive’s “Comfortable” campaign was rising to the top.

“Very early on we asked Highdive to take the concept to Jason because we couldn’t afford to go too long without asking or getting feedback from him. We weren’t considering other talent,” he said.

“It’s a little bit nerve-racking jumping in with a smaller boutique agency,” he added but it made for the “perfect blend” in combination with Quicken Loans’ internal agency. “It gives me confidence moving forward of working with boutiques.”

jason momoa in a lime green shirt getting his wig fitted

Momoa collaborated throughout the process as well, from pre-production sessions to reviewing cuts and edits.

“You know you’re on to a fun idea when the agency brand and the talent is all excited,” he said, with Momoa volunteering for a bunch of teaser content promoting the Super Bowl ad ahead of the game.

Hurbis claims that content led to 10 million views with no paid media after it was rolled out on Momoa’s social channels. Following the Super Bowl ad, Rocket Mortgage plans to continue with a campaign created by Highdive from a creative shoot with Momoa over the course of the next six months.

Making a summer sales campaign fun 

While Highdive’s Super Bowl ad for Rocket Mortgage was its first time working with the brand, its relationship with Jeep stretches back a bit further.

François explained that Jeep began working with Highdive on the “Summer of Jeep” campaign in 2018, its biggest campaign of the year. He explained that sales event campaigns are typically challenging in that they typically require a straightforward approach showing a vehicle’s features.

“That’s why it very rarely produces good commercials,” he said. “This is a brief that most marketing people [whether brand-side or at agencies] do not always totally embrace because it is challenging to feature the romance and the persona of a brand just filming a bunch of cars and showing their features.”

Highdive worked with Jeep on a multi-tier campaign featuring a collaboration between Jeep and OneRepublic for a comarketing effort with Apple Music based around the journey of a band going to a concert.

“They found a very smart device—a creative device to accomplish those things,” he explained, “and have the brand speak for itself in an engaging way” with the “attitude, authenticity [and] the whole DNA of Jeep coming across.”

Lisa Lacy contributed reporting to this story. 

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@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.