Fire bad. Wealthsimple Tax good

Who: Wealthsimple, with Mackcut for sound and editing, Blacksmith for VFX and animation, Jungle Media for media. Directed by Matthew Swanson.

What: “Anyone can do their taxes,” a campaign supporting the fintech brand’s newest service, Wealthsimple Tax.

When & Where: The campaign broke during the Super Bowl telecast, continuing Wealthsimple’s strategy of launching new campaigns during high-profile events. It is the fifth time in six years that Wealthsimple has appeared in the Super Bowl (it ran three different spots during Sunday’s telecast), while it launched last year’s “Half a million Mikes” campaign during the Golden Globes telecast.

“We still find a lot of value in trying to find those big media moments that are not skippable,” said executive creative director, Mike Giepert. A big brand push early tends to lead to better results for digital media as the campaign continues, he said. The campaign will reside on Wealthsimple’s various social channels, complemented by paid social with a shift towards performance-oriented media as the tax deadline draws near.

Why: It’s the first major awareness push for the company’s Wealthsimple Tax brand, which was created after the 2019 acquisition of Vancouver tax software company SimpleTax. The goal is to grow SimpleTax’s user base, which was approximately one million people last year. “I would love to see in the millions—plural—use Wealthsimple Tax this year, and I think this campaign is going to help drive lots of people into our ecosystem,” said Giepert.

How: The Wealthsimple team considered several creative concepts, but dismissed anything that felt like it was too focused on the difficulty of the past year. “Taxes are inherently stressful, so it was a conscious decision to use this dry, elevated humour as a positioning for the brand and not add to the stress that comes along with taxes,” said Giepert.

The creative shows historical figures including Frankenstein, Medusa and Noah grappling with how to answer some of the questions on a standard tax return. “Historical figures being confronted with taxes is a creative zone that we can keep building on,” said Giepert.

There are three executions, but the creative team found itself gravitating to the “Frankenstein” ad showing the monster —played by Dutch actor Caral Struycken, who appeared as Lurch in the Addams Family movies—grappling with the existential question of whether he’s filing for a deceased person by trying to determine if he is actually alive.

“We loved the idea that Frankenstein would be confronted with this crisis based on this question,” said Giepert. “[Struycken] has unbelievable expression and emotion in his face and eyes, and we just wanted to play up scenarios that would make viewers feel like this was a thoughtful, philosophical, feeling being who just happens to be stumped by this question.”

On the director: “It’s really rare when you’re trying to find somebody who has great comedic chops as a director that they also have really strong visuals,” said Giepert of Swanson, a Genie Award nominee in the Best Live Action Short Drama category for his 2005 short film Hiro. “I learned from this campaign that the depth of Matthew’s film knowledge goes really deep. We didn’t want this to be Old Spice or Geico work, we wanted our own sense of humour and style.”

And we quote: “When we first ran in the Super Bowl we were nervous that people were going to say ‘Who’s this start-up spending all this money to run spots in the Super Bowl. When we break it down, we find that CPMs for the Super Bowl are under-priced compared to a lot of other big media moments. It’s a fantastic, high-profile event and a great place to debut creative. — Mike Giepert, executive creative director, Wealthsimple

Chris Powell