Dollars & Sense

H&R Block, Intuit approach advertising differently as tax season kicks off

Updated: 2014-01-15T03:20:12Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

OK, taxpayer, time to make a choice. Do it yourself, or seek professional help?

This is how the advertising campaigns for tax preparation giants H&R Block and TurboTax maker Intuit have squared off in the industry’s annual dash toward April 15.

“Tax season is roughly 100 days, so we’re looking at how we can maximize our media spend,” said Julie Miller, an Intuit spokeswoman.

It means you probably have seen both companies’ ads already and will see them a lot more before tax season ends. Neither company would divulge its ad campaign budget.

TurboTax’s 90-second “The Year of the You” ad kicked off the New Year during the Rose Bowl, and a 60-second spot will run during the second quarter of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

H&R Block’s first 60-second spots aired last weekend on the Golden Globe Awards and National Football League playoff games.

Watch for both companies’ pitches as “American Idol” premieres tonight.

And just to make this year’s media fight interesting, there may be a billion dollars at stake.

That’s the message behind H&R Block’s campaign for its retail stores, online, software and mobile tax help.

Block says its Second Look reviews of Americans’ tax returns last year found that one in five of us missed credits and deductions. Collectively, the company says, that means taxpayers left more than $1 billion of their money in the U.S. Treasury.

H&R Block ads this year show us what $1 billion looks like. It’s enough to plunk $500 onto every seat of every professional football stadium in the country, or carpet the soccer fields of all 32 teams in the World Cup, or fill 36 palettes spread across the jet elevator on an aircraft carrier.

“This is your money. Get it back with Block,” says Richard Gartland, the bow-tied Block tax guy in Los Angeles who returns after last year’s employee-oriented campaign.

And the tag line in every Block ad: “Get your billion back, America.”

Block executives previewed the ads with employees at the company’s headquarters last week. Chief marketing officer Kathy Collins drew a contrast with “other ads” already in the marketplace.

“The message is something like, ‘Taxes are easy. Anybody can do their own taxes. You don’t know what you’re capable of.’ Really?” she said.

Cue Intuit’s TurboTax ads, on Intuit’s Youtube play list.

“Did you get married? If you can answer that and other questions about your year, then you can do your own taxes,” one ad said.

Every TurboTax ad ends, “It’s amazing what you’re capable of.”

Intuit’s ads focus on tax-triggering events in our lives, such as marriage, buying a house and changing jobs. Taxes reflect your life that year, the idea goes. If you know what happened, then TurboTax can let you get your taxes right.

“TurboTax always has been about empowering people to do their own taxes with confidence,” Miller said.

So begins the battle to help you prepare your taxes.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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