H&R Block Keeps Options Open

New Management, Services Help Fuel Review for $100 Mil. Biz
CHICAGO–Management changes at H&R Block and its agency prompted the financial-services company to put its $100 million global-marketing account into review, the client said.
Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block and Young & Rubicam, Chicago, the client’s agency since 1996, have both seen top-level staff shifts in the past year. “We’re not the company we were last year,” said H&R Block representative Linda McDougall, referring to both staffing and the company’s scope of services.
H&R Block in January expanded into financial services, software and online offerings, along with its traditional tax help. Y&R’s current campaign to signal the company’s change in attitude was well received, and McDougall said the company was “very happy” with the work.
But agency sources said the arrival of a new chief marketing officer last May made a review inevitable. David Byers joined the company from FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, as one of a series of client management changes at H&R Block that included a new chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Y&R’s group account director on H&R Block, David Skinner, left last month to join a Net venture capitalist, and John Matejczyk, Y&R chief creative on the account, starts this month at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
Y&R president Howard Breen pointed to other staffers still “firmly entrenched in the business,” refuting the suggestion that the changes have affected performance. After selecting a search consultant this week, H&R Block plans to conclude its review in June. Y&R has not yet decided if it will participate, Breen said.
The client’s acc-ounts with Y&R’s The Media Edge, Impiric (formerly Wunderman Cato Johnson) and Bravo Group (for Hispanic marketing), as well as marketer Nicholson Interactive, are all in review, McDougall said. H&R Block spent about $30 million in 1999 on advertising, per Competitive Media Reporting, but said this year spending would reach $100 million.