JTA — Rhonda Moore was alarmed when she saw the ad for a student-loan refinancing company that featured what she believed was a stereotypical dishonest Jewish banker.
In the ad, for the US company SoFi, a young couple is harassed by a schlubby, balding middle-aged man who dumps out the contents of the woman’s purse searching for change, then kisses and pockets a stack of dollar bills. Later, the man — who is wearing glasses, a gold watch and a tweed jacket — is shown hoarding their dinner at a restaurant, stealing their blankets in bed, and using their sink to brush his teeth.
“I know what it says to [a] non-Jew like me,” Moore, a real-estate appraiser in Ottawa, Canada, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It says to me, ‘Refinance with us and don’t let Jews steal your money.’”
That wasn’t what the ad’s creators intended: They said they meant the character to fit the archetype of a professor. But following a JTA inquiry inspired by Moore’s questions, the company said Wednesday that it would pull the commercial.
“Out of an abundance of caution, given the current rise in antisemitism, we are working to take down this advertisement as quickly as possible,” SoFi told JTA in a statement.
The ad was produced by the company’s in-house creative team and had been running since late October, including on CNN, where Moore saw it. SoFi said it had received “a handful of complaints” from people upset that the ad featured an interracial couple. The company vets its ads for “cultural concerns” before they air but said this one did not raise any concerns.
“SoFi is committed to fighting discrimination and racism in any form and will take no part in perpetuating any hateful stereotypes, even if completely unintentional,” the statement continued.
Founded in 2011, the online lender has become a leader in the student-loan refinancing space. The company has a reported 4.7 million “members” and recently reported a quarterly revenue of $424 million, a gain of more than 50% over the previous year.
In response to the news of SoFi removing the ad, Moore said, “I’m just happy that maybe one person could make a difference. There is no reason for an ad like that to ever be allowed to air anywhere.”