If you’ve watched any of the NFL Playoffs this season you’ve no doubt seen the H&R Block TV commercials featuring a beer vendor at a football stadium putting blocks money onto empty seats, while a smart-looking white guy with a green bow tie tells us that last year Americans who did their own taxes overpaid by a billion dollars. A BILLION. And that a billion dollars is enough to put $500 onto every seat in every pro football stadium in America. Wow. That’s a lot of money.
H&R Block really, really wants you to know just how much money a billion dollars is – so they even built a website to explain it. The site also includes other videos which further reinforce how massive ONE BILLION is. They want you to know that this is YOUR money, and that if you do your own taxes, you’re leaving your money out there. But it’s not your fault, you don’t know any better. And thankfully there is a solution – come to us. We’ll ensure you get what’s yours.
“Honey, cancel my Turbo Tax order – we’re going to H&R Block!”
Except, it’s not H&R Block telling you all this, it’s clever advertising people. You see, the clever ad people were hired by H&R Block, who used to be the de facto standard during tax season, to combat the Intuit incursion. Intuit makes financial software like QuickBooks, Mint, and Turbo Tax. And they’ve been eating into the market share of brick-and-mortar shops like H&R Block for a while now. This year Block said, “Enough already!” and hired really clever advertising people who knew to put a green bow tie on the geeky-looking white actor who pitches the “Get your Billion back!” tagline.
Don’t be fooled. It’s all just manipulation. Manipulation is our specialty in the ad business. You see, while a billion is a massive number, the thing that they don’t tell you in the H&R Block commercials is that there are 128 million US Taxpayers. When you divide one billion dollars by 128 million taxpayers you get seventy-eight bucks and change. Or, about the cost of Turbo Tax. And you didn’t think H&R Block worked for free, did you?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very clever concept. Using numbers to manipulate an audience is a time-tested advertising tactic that you see everywhere. Numbers don’t lie, after all. People do.
(Be sure to read the superimposed text in the spot, too. Too funny.)
Jim Mitchem – advertising copywriter
23 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Jan 16, 2014
This campaign has stuck with me for the very reasons you point out. Manipulation by both fear (oh no, have I lost money that I deserve?) and greed (damn, that money is MINE and I deserve to have it back!). Compelling, for sure.
Jan 16, 2014
Good point, Jim. But keep in mind also what HRB left behind. The last several years, their marketing was about their expertise. As in, “We know better than you. We’re experts.” That may be true for most Americans. But it was at least a position. “Get your billion back” is not a position. It’s an attempt to manipulate us, as you rightly point out.
Jan 16, 2014
Interesting. Another psych tactic in play here: Unity. In order for America to “get your billion back”, it must move as a unit. Hold hands now. And march your whole neighborhood to H&R Block.
Jan 16, 2014
Yep, that’s right. A calculated commercial fraud. Just like those warm department store Christmases of our childhood, the faux-earnest pop/rock music of our adolescence, and hundreds of other things we’re subjected to in our daily adult lives.
Jan 22, 2014
Actually, the nerdy white guy isn’t an actor. He’s an actual tax professional at an actual H&R Block store. I believe in Indiana or Illinois or something like that. And while there may be 128 million Americans filing taxes, only the ones that do not use H&R Block should be configured into that number, as the ones who do use it are not leaving their billions behind. :p just pointing that out.
Honestly, any service that is FREE, such as a second look review, is worth the time it takes to look it over. If H&R finds you additional monies, then of course there is a fee to file the paperwork to get you the money that was missed, but it’s FREE MONEY! So it’s definitely worth the time it takes to get it looked at.
Keep filing with Intuit and Turbo Tax, but make sure you get it reviewed (for FREE) at H&R Block before you file it.
Jan 22, 2014
Correction, it’s California where Mr. Richard Gartland works.
Jan 24, 2014
Actually, the guy in the commercials is not an actor. He is a real H&R Block representative from San Diego.
Jan 29, 2014
I am a CPA with an MBA. I specialize in tax. I tell clients that if you have an uncomplicated return use turbo tax. For basic returns the software is great. I always advise anybody that inquires to avoid H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, etc. The employees there go through a “training class”. No degree required. No IRS oversight. If you hire somebody to prepare your return and pay money for this service ask if they are a CPA or an enrolled agent. If they are not – run the other way and use turbo tax.
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Feb 1, 2014
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Feb 3, 2014
I’m either the only one fact-checking or making a huge error in my math, but isn’t $1,000,000,000.00 divided by 128,000,000 only $7.81? Where are you getting $78 and change? It would actually make your position stronger, so don’t get me wrong…
However, as others have pointed out, you also didn’t account for their argument specifying the money is left behind by those who do their own taxes. Studies show only around 33% of Americans do their own taxes, so really you’re only dividing $1,000,000,000.00 by 42,666,667 taxpayers, which is $23.44 (still in favor of your argument).
In fact, if you follow the link you included to their website, their website claims 56,000,000 Americans will file their own taxes (44%), which is more around $17.86.
Am I missing something? A decimal perhaps?
Feb 3, 2014
Hey, you might be right. My calculator doesn’t go up to a billion. But I crossed checked the numbers and that’s what I got. Then, I’m just a writer. Even so…
Feb 7, 2014
Haven’t crunched any numbers myself, but are these figures factoring in the small print from the commercials that say H&R finds money for 1 out of 5 returns they review? Just saying, it’s not EVERY SINGLE person that filed on their own… So maybe out of the 43,666,667 taxpayers, they find money for 1 in 5 of those… so 8,533,333 approximately? So… $117 and change per person?
Maybe I should also point out that regardless, if people have money that they don’t even know they are missing, they aren’t going to miss it. Of course everyone wants to believe that their taxes were prepared properly, that they got everything they were entitled too, etc. But the fact of the matter is, NOT EVERYONE’S WERE! Some people going to CPA’s, some that filed online, even people that filed with H&R find mistakes now and again. Mistakes happen, so why not have your stuff reviewed for free?
Feb 7, 2014
I have been a Tax Professional with Block for years. The “tax training” we go through is actually school. We go to school for hours on end to study and learn tax code. Then if we get hired on with Block we do additional training and more schooling. We study while we are working, we study when were are away from work, and we study in the off season if we are not working during the off season for audit assistance. If we aren’t helping clients we are studying and researching. Believe me when I say that although many of us are not CPAs we are well educated in tax laws. Many of us have other education (for example, I have a degree in Accounting, some have JDs, others have MBAs, etc).
I would also like to add that not all CPAs specialize in Tax. Those that even bother filing a tax return pawn it off on their interns and won’t even file unless it’s a complex return, leaving behind those on a 1040A or 1040EZ. We specialize in Taxes. It’s all we focus on. The tax pros at Block have levels of training and we match clients based on a client’s needs and the tax professional’s expertise. And we are all registered with the IRS, and do work with the IRS and comply with IRS regulations, as well as individual state requirements.
Online software might’ve made it simpler for the Average Joe to file his tax returns, but the average Joe doesn’t know squat about tax laws and we fix returns filed online all the time. Online software is VERY misleading. One of the major software companies actually employed a friend of a friend of mine who gives online tax support advice to those that submit questions and she has NO TRAINING WHATSOEVER. She actually asked ME when the filing deadline was!! And this was the “master tax advisor” online support that the company provides.
Feb 21, 2014
Anyone know what stadium they used when making this?
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Apr 8, 2014
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Jan 27, 2015
I think it’s a pretty funny commercial but yah, it’s manipulation. I used H&R block for a few years and they were pretty high. I paid 180 dollars for someone to go through a list of check boxes that I found I was able to do with Turbo Tax. But hey, it’s their prerogative to try and make $ and if people choose not to do research they can pay H&R Block. Still, most of the people at H&R were professional and they offered pretty sound service.
Feb 11, 2015
I think its 49ers old stadium. I think they blew that thing to smithereens recentley
Feb 11, 2015
That’s Obviously Candlestick Stadium Ex home of the 49ers and SF Giants. RIP
Mar 15, 2015
Totally sick of these deceptive ads and that horrible yelling “accountant”
Jun 25, 2015
First, of course advertising is there to entice people to a product or service. “Get Your Billions Back” is no different than the save the children and ASPCA campaigns (both of which I contribute too…anyone willing to match my contributions?) It’s advertising and to say anything than what it is means we have an ad man who is probably sore that he didn’t think of it.
Second, Lisa Tarantola CPA…I wanna say that there are CPA’s out there that are good solid people who do their best for their clients, but then there are the ones I have seen who look at the bottom line and profit centers. I have been with Block for a year now and in that time I have taken returns done by CPA’s and for $99 gotten clients back hundreds, even thousands of dollars that these “professionals” not only left behind, but still charged for. Imagine what our senior preparers and Enrolled Agents are capable of…and they are there for us to continue learning from and consult with if needed. Are there clients out there that look at the bill horrified? Of course, but then again we are TAX professionals trained ONLY in TAXES and I would put the skills and abilities of my office against you when it comes to taxes any day. That’s why people use us. We may not be cheap, but we are good and WE GUARANTEE IT in writing. 100% maximum legal refund or minimum payment, 100% accuracy, free assistance if the IRS sends you a letter, and most of our offices are open year round. If we make a mistake, we put it in writing that we will pay the penalties and fees. We have inexpensive products that provide clients with audit representation (by an enrolled agent), and we are the only service with a product to protect clients if their tax identity is stolen which includes nearly 5 million SNN’s since 2010 according to the IRS. This year is the worst year and no, normal identity protection does not protect you against tax identity theft. So before you try to black ball a competitor you know can spin taxes around you, make sure you tell the whole story. People believe what they read on here and are disserved by a CPA making blind comments like yours.
Jun 30, 2015
Sounds like someone is trying to get a leg up with H&R Block. Why so angry? Look, I get it that you’re a company man. Kudos to you for that. You’ll go far up that ladder. But you should stick to accounting instead of dabbling in advertising. Clearly, you know more about that topic than I do. Or maybe you’re just faking all of it so that your boss sees this comment and gives you a slap on the back and a hearty “Well done, Ellwood!” When you’re ready to talk about authenticity and creativity in advertising, go create some first and then come on back by and we’ll discuss it. As for your rude comment to the other commenter, I think you need to learn some manners. And lay off the all caps. It’s really unnecessary (but I suppose you believe you’re a writer too …).
My novel – Minor King
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