H&R Block finds reasons to smile about some of 2020’s complicated challenges

Who: H&R Block, with Sid Lee for strategy and creative.

What: A new ad campaign that takes two serious topics—taxes and 2020—and puts them together for laughs.

When & Where: The campaign is built around three 15-second TV spots, but is running across most media (except outdoor), and is live now through tax deadline.

Why: The key message for H&R Block is that its experts can help customers solve their tax problems. While taxes are stressful for a lot of people, other brands in the category tend to accentuate the tension people are feeling, said Sid Lee Toronto creative director Matt Fraracci.

H&R Block’s strategy is to go with humour and levity instead, which is even more important this year. The idea was to nod to the added complexity of 2020 without going too far into “the misery of it,” said Fraracci. “We don’t need to be too heavy-handed, and we don’t need to go back and pick through 2020 in detail.”

How: Last year, H&R Block and Sid Lee introduced a new creative platform of people sharing unique and comically complex problems. That concept is back this year, although the problems are inspired by a year of COVID, and customers are talking with H&R’s staffers on the phone instead of meeting face-to-face. They open up about what their life has been like the past year, with the H&R Block tax expert happily sharing how they’ve at least made their tax situation a little bit better. “Last year was complicated. We make taxes simple,” says the voiceover.

“We got to a really good place… and walked a very thin line of being relevant without dwelling on all the crap we went through in 2020,” said Fraracci.

Casting: The agency brought back five of the six cast members from last year’s campaign. “We loved the idea of imagining the cast from the last year; where has their life meandered, the ups and downs of the last 10 months,” said Fraracci.

Social: The H&R Block Instagram creative is different to the TV, but is still meant to evoke a smile. Simply put ,they take everyday objects and “blocikfy” them with captions that deliver a simple message about H&R Block’s offerings (that idea also led to last year’s decision to open an H&R Block office in the video game Minecraft).

“For tax preparation we have I think the coolest Instagram feed I have ever seen,” said Fraracci. “It is kind of an attempt to obviously connect with younger people in a medium where frankly, I don’t think anyone’s going to Instagram to learn about taxes. So it’s very very breakthrough in that medium.”


David Brown