H&R Block Focuses on Taxes

Taking a divergent path from last year’s brand-oriented ad effort, which centered around a harried tax preparer, the debut campaign for H&R Block from Campbell Mithun takes a retail-oriented, promotion-heavy approach.

“We’re making a much more concerted effort toward client acquisition and product advancement,” said David Byers, H&R Block’s chief marketing officer. “Last year focused on what we needed to do as a brand, now we need to get more people through the doors.”

Last year’s campaign from Young & Rubicam Chicago, tagged “Get help,” touted H&R Block’s expansion to a full-service financial company. The $100 million effort from CM, tagged “Just plain smart” and breaking Jan. 15, returns the focus to the company’s core tax preparation business. A campaign for Blocks’ financial services is due after tax season.

The campaign touts several promotional tie-ins, including free reviews of last year’s tax returns and a week-long sponsorship in February of ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. During that week, H&R Block will pay the taxes on each contestants’ winnings to keep the take-home at the actual amount won. The company will concurrently run a television spot promoting a million dollar sweepstakes for anyone using H&R Block for tax preparation. (The sweepstakes winnings will not be tax-free, Byers said.)

Television spots use animation and live action. One animated spot uses a tile puzzle as a metaphor for complicated taxes. A live action spot depicts an accountant who can “smell the discussion.”

“[The animation] al-lowed us to show aspects of tax complexity in a linear way,” said Steve Wehrenberg, director of CM’s technology services group. In the live-action spots, “it was easier to tell the stories,” he added.

The campaign also includes radio, newspaper and direct mail advertising.

“We have this unique niche of being the accessible provider of financial services,” Byers said. “‘Just plan smart’ is our interpretation of that accessibility.”