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"Chefs"

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As if tax season weren't nerve-wracking enough, ads for tax-prep services work to increase viewers' anxiety. Choose the wrong one, ads warn, and you'll suffer the consequences, such as paying too much to the IRS, getting audited or wearing a striped suit at the federal penitentiary-whatever.

New spots for Jackson Hewitt, via DeVito/Verdi of New York, present an edgy variation on the theme.

One spot features two chefs at a Benihana-like Japanese restaurant, chatting as they dice and slice. (You haven't seen such rapid chopping since the heyday of the Ginsu knife infomercials.) Chef 1 says he just got a Money Now loan at Jackson Hewitt, where, "They work even faster than we do." Chef 2: "What do you mean?" Chef 1: "I just walked in with my W-2. Next thing I knew, I'm walking out with a loan check." The distressed Chef 2 says his tax guy didn't offer a Money Now Loan, and "I could really use it." He closes his eyes, doffs his chef hat, holds up his very large knife and quickly exits-evidently bent on hara-kiri. As Chef 1 dashes after him, a voiceover urges viewers to visit Jackson Hewitt now "or you'll wish you did later."

Something tells me I won't be the only viewer for whom the phrase "in questionable taste" will spring to mind, detracting attention from the lively sales pitch.

Another spot shows an ambulance speeding along. The driver tells of her happy experience with Jackson Hewitt. The paramedic, attending to a patient, bemoans the fact that his tax service doesn't work that way. As the spot ends, he takes the oxygen mask from the patient's face and puts it on his own. The vignette may not be elegant, but it communicates Jackson Hewitt's positioning without blatantly violating the canons of decency.--Mark Dolliver