H&R Block’s CMO on Jon Hamm and Why He’s the Perfect Tax-Season Spokesperson

Actor's got range

Taxes often are a dull affair, but this year, H&R Block is shaking things up with a new ad campaign starring the dapper Jon Hamm. The set of three ads from agency Fallon, the first of which debuted just after Christmas, uses the tagline "Get your taxes won" as a way of positioning the brand against competitors like TurboTax. With 12 TV spots airing in the run-up up to tax season, it's the largest campaign in the brand's history.

The second set of ads, launching this week, features Hamm on a movie set, humorously explaining the features of H&R Block's tax promos and their advantages over TurboTax. Adweek met with H&R Block's CMO, Kathy Collins, to discuss the brand's marketing efforts as tax day approaches.

Adweek: How is H&R Block positioning itself against its competitors, which often offer cheaper services, this tax season?
Kathy Collins: We had a rough tax season last year, and we knew we had to do something bold. We had never called out any competitor by name [before now]. TurboTax had a great season; we did not.

Sixty percent of people want help with their taxes, so we're emphasizing our expertise. TurboTax and others say, "This is easy. You don't need expertise," but our point is, you do because you might be leaving money behind. We can help you navigate through the tax code, which is 75,000 pages long. When we started the business in 1955, the tax code was 500 pages long. People who do their taxes on their own make a mistake about half the time, so highlighting our expertise is the right way to position the brand.

Why did you choose Jon Hamm as a spokesperson?
Because he has range. He had us cracking up on set, and in the next set of ads, you'll see a more dramatic and serious tone. He can pull it all off. The first ads are purposely funny because we wanted people to get engaged quickly and use one of our products. In Chapter 3, the humor fades and we talk about the importance of our expertise and how it can help you win.

There's also a Missouri connection. H&R Block is headquartered in Kansas City, and Jon Hamm is from St. Louis. He really liked the brand, and he's so liked by men and women across every demographic. So we feel like we hit it out of the park.

What is your biggest challenge in marketing tax services?
It's really about figuring out what's next in tax preparation. You can also talk about politics: Is our president-elect going to change the tax policy, and will that change the world of tax prep? It's about anticipating what's coming.