Are H&R Block and Jon Hamm Responding to Trump’s Criticisms of the Brand in New Campaign?

This week Jon Hamm made his first appearance as a brand spokesman in a new campaign for tax preparation company H&R Block. The brand hints the new spots may be a response to comments made by a certain President-elect.

In August 2015-the earliest days of a hard-fought campaign-Donald Trump told Joe Scarborough that he dreamed of “put[ting] H&R Block right out of business” by simplifying the U.S. tax code.

Putting aside his own admittedly complex relationship with the very concept of paying taxes, Trump’s statements touched upon a common sentiment among Americans who dread the thought of struggling through their own returns every year. At the time, an H&R Block spokesperson stated that the company would support any “intelligent” reforms to the tax code. But these new ads by Fallon appear to address Trump’s prior statements without naming him in what social media devotees might call a prime example of “subtweeting.

In the first spot, Hamm urges viewers to “blow it up” … the old way of filing taxes, that is.

In a press release written to accompany the campaign, H&R Block makes clear that it empathizes with those who dream of a less frustrating process.

“At H&R Block, our purpose is to look at clients’ lives through the lens of tax and find ways to help. With Get Your Taxes Won, we’re taking that commitment to a whole new level,” said the company’s chief marketing and strategy officer Kathy Collins. “We know there are many correct ways to fill out a tax return and the IRS will accept all of them, but one way gets you the most money back.”

Hamm uses donuts to illustrate these different approaches in the second ad, which again looks to assert the importance of a service like H&R Block’s in helping consumers work through what Collins calls a “nerve-wracking” experience.

H&R Block executives have avoided mentioning Trump in the campaign’s press release and related statements. But Collins did recently tell The New York Times that, “We got kicked around a little bit last year” in an apparent reference to the debate over the true value of its services.

Last month also saw the company’s stock drop approximately 9 percent in what financial analysts who cited Trump’s 2015 statements called “potential headwinds associated with President-elect Donald Trump’s policies and the company’s ‘Refund Advance’ plan.”

The key message H&R Block hopes viewers will take from this campaign is that its services remain valuable to millions of taxpayers despite what Trump or any other influential party might say.

“This season-the first year of Get Your Taxes Won-we are going to be very aggressive in telling consumers how much we have to offer,” Collins said. “This is about helping consumers get the best filing experience and outcome on their taxes. I believe no one can do that better than H&R Block.”

H&R Block has not yet responded to an Adweek inquiry specifically asking if the campaign is a response to Donald Trump’s comments.

Fallon Worldwide created the ads, which were directed by Simon McQuoid of the forthcoming Mortal Kombat reboot. The campaign debuted on Christmas night and will continue airing throughout the season via TV and radio spots starring Hamm. H&R Block has not revealed any details regarding its marketing spend, but does state that this work will have “more broadcast presence” than past campaigns.

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