block stadium

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

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.