DeVito Verdi Extols Jackson Hewitt

NEW YORK Going with a tried-and-true two-tiered ad strategy for the tax season, Jackson Hewitt this week will break a $20 million-plus push promoting two of its key selling points: quicker and bigger returns.

As in past years, the tax prep service will initially highlight the quickness of the returns with two new TV spots breaking this week and running through February. From March through April 15, the firm will air TV spots noting its acumen in finding arcane deductions and trying to convert do-it-yourselfers.

Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito Verdi, the New York agency that produced the ads, said when W-2 forms are mailed in mid-January, there’s a group of people who need their refund right away. “This isn’t an aspirational product, it’s a need,” he said. “They feel it’s their money and they need it quickly.”

In one of the ads emphasizing that speed, a man sitting with a Jackson Hewitt tax preparer asks how long until he gets his check. He’s told to check his pocket, which already holds the money. Then he asks if he can get his jacket. “Check your back,” he’s told and sure enough, the jacket has already been put on.

Later in the season, the ads will tout the fact that Jackson Hewitt provides an average of $400 more back than the typical IRS refund. One ad starts with a spokesman explaining the claim as a “$400 more” figure flashes at the bottom of the screen. “You’re not listening to me, you’re just looking at that $400. I can say whatever I want,” he says. “I don’t like cats, but I like ice skating. I like a burrito when I’m hungry . . .”

Other ads will try to convert the 50 percent or so of the population that does its own taxes. Peter Tahinos, senior vice president of marketing at Jackson Hewitt, said that figure comes down every year, despite the spread of tax software. “The people shifting [to software] are the ones who used to do it on the kitchen table,” he said.

Jackson Hewitt, which was spun off from Cendant last year, has about a 4 percent share of the tax prep market, versus about 21 percent for H&R Block.