H&R Block, which seems to update its tagline and ad approach as often as the IRS tweaks its tax codes, is back with a new campaign themed “Get it right.”
The campaign, which broke this month, is a manifestation of major changes at the company of late. Russ Smyth, a veteran of McDonald’s, joined H&R Block in August 2008, CMO Robert Turtledove came on board in August of this year and agency DDB was brought on in June.
DDB’s first work for the tax-prep firm flips the creative approach of this year’s “I’ve got people” to the perspective of consumers, who are shown wondering about aspects of their taxes. “Is a haircut a job-hunting expense?” one asks. “Last summer, my kid made four figures. Does he have to file a tax return?” another asks. In a subtle nod to the economic downturn, increasingly common situations like 30-year-olds who live with their parents are featured in the campaign.
Turtledove said that when he initially presented the creative to franchisees, many said they were happy with the “I’ve got people” ads, but he thought the new approach would resonate more with consumers. Turtledove, the former CMO of job search site TheLadders.com and a veteran of Pizza Hut, said he brings an outsider’s perspective to the brand. “I thought, ‘What’s the story with taxes?’” he said. “How do you make it interesting?”
The interesting part came in making the process less painful. The new ads present H&R Block as a resource of information, a positioning that will be underscored by a social media plan that includes the input of 1,000 H&R tax pros on Twitter. (The pros won’t give advice over Twitter but will lead consumers to a Web page that will provide some answers.) The ads include the sign-off “click, call or come over,” adding to the brand’s approachability.
Rob Frankel, a New York-based branding expert, said that the ad approach is logical, but it’s too generic. “You could slot in any other tax preparer’s ID,” he said. “What reason is H&R Block giving for choosing them?” Frankel noted that the brand had gone through various taglines in recent years, ranging from “America’s tax team” to “Just plain smart,” among others.
Spending was not disclosed. The brand spent $134 million on media through September versus $93 million for the comparable period in 2008, per the Nielsen Co.