Every year there is an interesting little showdown at the beginning of the calendar year. As tax season gets underway, the two largest tax preparation services/products ramp up large ad campaigns in hopes of compelling Americans without a tax preparation product, accountant, or company of choice, that they are indeed worth the cost.
Although H&R Block is more of a professional service and TurboTax is a software product, they're competing for the same consumers and very often the ad campaigns can be the difference maker in terms of who moves the needle in any given year. Over the last couple of weeks we've seen both companies roll out their 2014 campaigns. Below a look at their core campaigns.
This is a fun little agency showdown to track every year and looking at both campaigns, I have to weigh in heavily that TurboTax is the clear winner. The first minute of John C Reilly's narrated ad is artistic and fast paced. It holds your attention. It may resonate with you depending on what your last year was like. It almost falls into that dreaded hole of being a commercial that you like but don't remember the product/company behind it, but the last 30 seconds brings it all together and has a lot of great product shots as they explain that taxes are just a recap of your year and they make it simple for you. All in all, a very good and fun campaign that has a many different iterations on television right now.
I find the H&R Block campaign to not really be compelling at all. A billion dollars is lost every year? While that number may shock some people, I'm guessing the 50 million Americans who file a tax return are a little more savvy and know that is not that crazy of a number. If you do the math, essentially the average American is leaving $20 on the table in terms of their tax return (although obviously most are not and I'm sure those who are not getting a full refund are losing a lot higher of a number).
While there are many different versions in which they try to visually explain how big a billion is, the issue is that the math doesn't work. Their service costs a multiple higher than the average added return one would get by enlisting H&R Block. Previous campaigns had the company helping small town people get more money back and showing how they'd spend that money. It was touching and it resonated on a personal level. They were out in the world doing good for folks who could use a little boost. This just doesn't do much for me. The fact that they flash a stat saying that 1 in 5 customers found a bigger tax return by using the service also doesn't seem to be very compelling. So if I pay you a good chunk of money, there is a 20% chance I'll get SOME return on my investment and even so it might be less than the amount I paid you?
At the end of the day, taxes suck and you have to make a personal connection to the consumer to win their business. TurboTax succeeds here and H&R Block fails thinking the mentioning of "billion" will blow our minds when ultimately it just makes me less motivated to use them given the math doesn't work out. Also, I like John C Reilly….a lot.