Don’t gamble your tax return away

H&R Block shows the downside of having taxes done by friends and family in a new lighthearted campaign.

It’s tax season again, and H&R Block has launched a campaign that aims to ensure Canadians are going to the right place to get their advice.

In a series of TV ads, created by Sid Lee, the brand shows all the less-than-desirable situations Canadians could find themselves in if they turn to someone they know to do their taxes instead of a professional. Those scenarios range from an awkward exchange with a father-in-law who finds receipts for more personal purchases, a neighbour who doesn’t know what he is talking about or a buddy’s uncle whose “accounting” advice amounts to gambling a return on a horse race.

“The insight, which we found through research and talking to clients, is that a lot of people use their uncle or family friend or someone in their lives to do their taxes for them,” says Hilary Zaharko, VP of marketing at H&R Block. “Sometimes, those people might not be qualified. The other thing we find is because doing your taxes is so personal, it can also lead to uncomfortable situations. We decided to take that insight and play it up.”

Last year, H&R Block and Sid Lee launched the “Get What’s Yours” brand platform, which aimed to break Canadians out of their “ambivalence” towards the tax filing process by turning the focus to all of the things a tax return could go towards. While this year’s TV campaign focuses more on who Canadians work with during the tax filing process,  Zaharko says the campaign still embodies the idea that H&R Block can help Canadians maximize the amount they receive from a tax return.

“We’re using this illustration of your friend or family member who isn’t getting you as much back as they could,” she says. “There are just details they might not know or not know to look for. We were really trying to use the fact that using a professional and getting help can get you more money.”

Zaharko describes last year’s “Get What’s Yours” campaign (also by Sid Lee, which now manages social media and community management for the brand) as an anthem piece. This year it looked to take more of a lighthearted approach, similar to what it had done with its 2016 campaign.

“People in Canada respond better to that,” she says. “The ‘rah rah’ message of what our experts can do for you does well internally here and Canadians do like it, but humour does better.”

In addition to the TV spots, the campaign includes pre-roll videos, out-of-home, radio and an extensive digital and social play. Zaharko says the brand is putting a heavy emphasis on highly targeted online messaging to reach its 18- to 34-year-old target, with improvements in reporting and targeting tools allowing the company to “better spend [its] money” on those platforms.