The prospect of eating a bowlful of bugs—and similarly unsettling reality-game-show horrors—are preferable to running afoul of the taxman. Such is the strategy of Cronin & Co.'s new campaign for the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services' Tax Amnesty Program.
In a 30-second spot that breaks statewide on Tuesday, a contestant on the fictional Face Your Fate show is served a helping of creepy-crawlies and submerged in a tank of icy water. "So far, you've faced the 'bug buffet' and the Arctic water chamber," says the host. "Now it's time to face the Connecticut Tax Commissioner!"
As the contestant is lowered into a chamber where the state's actual tax commissioner, Gene Gavin, awaits, the host urges him to pay his taxes by Nov. 30 to avoid penalties and prosecution. His spirit broken, the contestant gasps: "I can't do this. I give up!" The tagline is, "Either way, you will pay."
"We want people to feel some trepidation if they don't pay their taxes," said Steve Wolfberg, executive creative director of Glastonbury, Conn.-based Cronin.
The spot will run through November on network and cable; the effort also includes radio and print ads running in newspapers in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Spending is estimated at $1 million.
Cronin's last Connecticut tax amnesty campaign was created in 1995 and used a sober tone in spots with actors portraying scofflaws.
Several other states in recent years have launched ads using humor to stress the consequences of tax evasion. Gianettino & Meredith, Short Hills, N.J., used the Blondie song "One Way or Another" in a 1996 spot for the New Jersey Division of Taxation. In 1998, actor Wayne Knight starred in radio spots by Waldbillig & Besteman, Madison, Wis., for Wisconsin's tax amnesty program.