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H&R Block: coping with la vida loca
In the past

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H&R Block: coping with la vida loca
In the past, in trying to picture my local H&R Block, the tax-service center, I would visualize a dinky storefront office in a strip mall, with a Dilbert-like figure standing in his shirt sleeves and dorky tie at his '80s-era computer. In the commercials, I imagined this was the same guy who would assure me my taxes would be done on time.
That's the shock--and instant beauty--of this new H&R Block campaign from Y&R Chicago. It conveys that the brand is not only alive, but responsive and even hip to the 21st century. That's no small feat.
Indeed, there's neither an office nor an over-the-computer handshake shown. Instead, the spot focuses on consumers at home: messy, anxious, distracted, vaguely-mad-that-we-haven't-gotten-near-this millionaire- thing, still-sorting-our-receipts-into-the-night consumers. And it doesn't make any crazy promises. It merely shows us that we need help, but in the most delightful way.
In a series of quick, comic, interest-building spots, Bill, H&R's unlikely mascot, is us. As we get to know him, we get attached to him. An otherwise fully functional dad, husband and worker, the guy is taking the tax thing pretty hard.
He's distracted, padding around his house, with a three-day beard growth, looking for answers in the darndest places. The casting and writing is dead-on. When Bill's teenage daughter asks for money, he proffers his whole wallet. She then says she'll be out all night, and he responds, "Have a good time.''
In each of these clever spots, we get 11 seconds of drama, an energetic little Latin musical riff, then the title cards, telling us "Get help'' and that these little masterworks are from H&R Block.
That's right, nowadays a riff of hot Latin funk conjures up those caliente moments with our neighborhood H&R Block.
Originally, the vignettes were to run several at a time in two 30-second slots. But it's much livelier chopped up episodically. Plus, we never get tired of charting Bill's serial development.
In another spot in the series, Bill is again interacting with his daughter. He's on the phone, asking about "Schedule C.'' She walks in and he hands her the phone, saying, "It's for you--some boy from school, Chad or Brad or something.'' Later, daughter and wife are in the living room, reading. All we hear is the sound of a clock ticking. He comes staggering out, screaming, "Dad needs quiet!'' It conjures up the edgy, domestic psychodrama of American Beauty without the perverse underbelly.
In my personal fave, his wife comes cheerily in the room to check on him. Bill's holding the cat, demonically staring through the Venetian blinds, saying, in a strained voice, "We're gonna get an extension.'' Overall, the best line goes to Bill's wife: "Bill, you're scaring me.''
Of course, no such comprehensive repositioning would be complete without selling H&R's other services, such as financial planning and online tax preparation. In a spot that promotes "refund rewards,'' a different guy is in his kitchen, penciling in his tax forms. When he gets to the part about dependents, he sees his dog suckling her pups. Then he takes a look at his parrot. "Ten,'' he writes.
Another hilarious spot is a parody of a happy, upbeat airline commercial. Everything gleams as the pilot, a commanding John McCain type, walks around the Block Air plane. The voiceover mentions H&R Block and asks, "How much has it changed? Not this much." The spots mix just the right amount of irony, sarcasm, wit and funk.
So here's to those hot, jazzy, happenin' accounte„eros at H&R Block. K

H&R Block
Agency: Young & Rubicam, Chicago
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Figliulo
CD/Copywriter: John Matejczyk
Sr. Art Director: Rick Casteel
Sr. Broadcast Producer: Lee Goldberg
Director: Craig Gillespie/Coppos Film