TurboTax’s Creepy-Cute Horror Ads Take Weird Turns Halfway Through

But don't be scared, says W+K campaign

Headshot of Tim Nudd

While Wieden + Kennedy is rethinking DTF for OkCupid, the agency’s new campaign for TurboTax is more WTF.

The Intuit-owned tax software brand has rolled out four spots, including one for the Hispanic market, featuring creepy horror scenarios which emphasize that not everything—taxes, for example—is as scary as it seems. The campaign is called “There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of,” and is one of two new TurboTax campaigns launching this month.

We begin with a :60 called “Closet,” in which a woman cowers in her home from an attacker, who turns out to be more diminutive than we had first assumed. His next moves, though, are disturbing enough that maybe the woman was right to flee to fear.

Two :30s extend the theme into an attic and the woods, respectively, featuring a ghost and a monster who explain—after a creepy opening scene—that things aren’t as frightening as they seem. “The Noise in the Attic” is especially fun, perhaps the best of the series.

A fourth spot, in Spanish, explores the legend of the Chupacabra, a mysterious creature that supposedly attacks and drinks the blood of livestock, especially goats. The legend is particularly resonant in Puerto Rico.

Two more spots are expected to break later this month as part of the “There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of” campaign. The new spots follow a similar execution released a year ago at this time, which starred Kathy Bates as a homeowner who asks TurboTax whether she can claim as dependents a bunch of freaky ghost children who are living in the house she just bought. See that spot below.

Horror has been a fruitful genre for advertisers lately, including the wonderful horror shorts that Mars candy brands did with Fox this past Halloween.

Meanwhile, TurboTax is also preparing to launch a second campaign, also via W+K, themed “Hey, At Least Your Taxes Are Free.” Comedic spots breaking this weekend show the bright side of situations that don’t quite go as intended, suggesting there’s a silver lining to every situation. The ads will highlight TurboTax Absolute Zero, the nation’s first and highest-rated free tax software.

“We have been on a multi-year mission to dispel fear and uncertainty that causes people to doubt they can prepare their own tax return,” said Greg Johnson, svp of marketing for Intuit’s TurboTax business. “As we continue to instill confidence in consumers, now more than ever before, TurboTax can serve a broad range of taxpayers. That’s why this year we are out with multiple campaigns highlighting different products and offerings that reach Americans at a variety of life stages and tax complexities.”

The 2018 campaign was created in partnership with multicultural agency Gallegos United.

Client: TurboTax

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Micah Walker, Tim Roan
Copywriter: Bertie Scrase
Art Director: Christen Brestrup
Integrated Production
Brand Production Lead: Robert Saxon
Creative Manager: Amy Streger
Broadcast Producer: Alexei Vanmourik
Art Producer: Grace Petrenka
Business Affairs Manager: Alicia Willet
Designer: Alex Sanchez
W+K Studios
Stills Photographers: Kyle Pero, Saskia Thomson
Stills Photography Digital Techs: Amy Corcoran, Lilly Archer
Retouching: Kyle Pero, Saskia Thomson, Amy Corcoran, Lilly Archer
Motion Designer: Jeff Ackley, Adam Sirkin, Oliver Rokoff
Motion Producer: Dennis Samatulski
Account Team: Courtney Nelson, Corey Woodson, Alex Fitch

Company: Reset
Director: Gary Freedman
Executive Producer: Deannie O’Neil
Line Producer: Pete Vitale
Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Company: Cartel
Editor: Andy McGraw (Attic + Closet) + Chris Catanach (Chupacabra + Woods)
Assistant Editor: Grant Hall
Post Producer: Greer Bratschie
Post Executive Producer: Lauren Bleiweiss

Music + Sound Design
Company: Walker
Executive Producers: Stephanie Pigott, Sara Matarazzo

Company Lime:
Mixer / Sound Designer: Rohan Young
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

Company:: Kevin
VFX Supervisor: : Theo Maniatis
CG Supervisor: : Mike Dalzell
VFX Producer: : Jami Schakel
VFX Coordinator: : Tina Dion
Executive Creative Director/Partner: Tim Davies
Senior Executive Producer/Partner: Sue Troyan

CG Artists:
Delano Athias
Greg Mawicke
Kris Kelly
Matthew Longwell
Matthew Connolly
Caleb Ollivant
Carl Harders
Kevin Gillen
Jarrod Avalos
Matthew Merkovich
Igor Stefanovic
Bryan Repka
Tamara Paterson
Andrea Paolino

Robert Murdock
Chris Payne
Steve Gibbons
Ed Black
Anthony Petitti
Trent Shumway
Susanne Scharping
Pilon Lectez
Anthony Barcelo
Kevin Jones
Graziella Gandolfi

Design/Graphics: Adam Levine

Concept Art:
Nathan McKenna
Jim Carson

Company: MPC London
Artist: Jean-Clement Soret
Executive Producer: Ellora Chowdhury

Artist: Serge Seidlitz

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.