H&R Block Goes Beyond Taxes

Y&R’s $100 Mil. Campaign Humorously Introduces the Changes
CHICAGO–H&R Block is backing its expansion into financial services with a $100 million global marketing effort anchored by new advertising from Young & Rubicam.
The campaign touts the Kansas City, Mo.-based company’s new financial planning, mortgage and brokerage services, its software and online offerings and its traditional income tax help. The TV element of the fully integrated campaign broke nationally Jan. 12.
A 30-second launch spot, “Block Air,” parodies airline advertising, with the pilot of an H&R Block plane giving a hokey thumbs-up to mechanics and passengers. “How much has H&R Block changed?” a voiceover asks. “Not this much.”
A series of ads within the campaign tagged “Get help” features a tax-obsessed father engrossed in his return. He ignores his wife’s seduction and asks his daughter’s boyfriend and the family cat for advice as he gets increasingly deranged.
The humor is intended to build on the brand’s reputation of accessibility, said David Byers, H&R Block’s chief marketing officer. “We’re a brand that mainstream America feels comfortable doing business with,” he said.
“Taxes can be such a downer, and we don’t want H&R Block to be,” added Y&R group creative director John Matejczyk.
The work also plays off the tension people feel about finances, said Mark Figliulo, chief creative director. “If you can help people chuckle about it, they are going to love you,” he said.
“The company is going through probably the biggest transformation in its history,” Byers said. The challenge, then, was to introduce the new services without detracting from the tax operation. “At the end of the day we hope it all adds up to the new H&R Block,” Figliulo said.
Other components of the effort were developed by direct marketer Wunderman Cato Johnson, Chicago, brand agency Landor and Associates, San Francisco, and Hispanic shop Bravo in New York.
H&R Block spent $28 million on advertising in the first nine months of 1999, and $30 million in 1998, per Competitive Media Reporting. K