H&R Block and IBM Watson Are Teaming Up for Taxes—and the Super Bowl

But keeping the ad starring Jon Hamm under wraps

The tone of Big Game ad won't be humorous like the ones it's currently running with Hamm. - Credit by YouTube: H&R Block
Headshot of Christine Birkner

H&R Block will be back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009 to promote a new partnership with IBM Watson to help the artificial intelligence platform do your taxes.

The brand has chosen not to release the 60-second ad—which will air in the game’s first quarter and was produced by Fallon in Minneapolis—ahead of the Big Game.

“It’s against the norm, but we decided that this is a bold announcement and we wanted to keep it under wraps until we had the biggest audience possible,” said Kathy Collins, H&R Block’s CMO.

The spot will star current H&R Block spokesman Jon Hamm.

This tax season, IBM Watson technology, which has been used by brands like Macy’s, The North Face and fashion label Marchesa, will be used to help H&R Block’s tax professionals find more tax credits and deductions for customers.

When a customer goes in for their tax appointment, they’ll be given their own H&R Block with Watson monitor. As the tax professional asks questions, Watson will be looking for information to enhance the outcome. For example, if the client is a teacher from Wisconsin, Watson will be able to find data points about other teachers from Wisconsin and present the tax professional with information such as deductions and credits that other teachers from the state have taken.

“It’s all about man plus machine,” Collins said. “Our tax professionals know so much about the tax code, so we wanted to see how Watson could enhance the client experience.”

“It’s against the norm, but we decided that this is a bold announcement and we wanted to keep it under wraps until we had the biggest audience possible.”
H&R Block CMO Kathy Collins

The tone of the Super Bowl ad will divert from the humorous ads H&R Block is currently running with Hamm. It’s more serious and “more dramatic,” according to Collins. But the spot still hews to the brand’s new positioning of not just getting your taxes done, but “getting your taxes won.”

H&R Block hopes its new positioning, as well as the IBM Watson partnership, will help differentiate it from competitors like TurboTax, whose Super Bowl teaser features Humpty Dumpty and also has ads with Kathy Bates and DJ Khaled.

“We had a rough tax season last year,” Collins admits. “We surveyed consumers and realized that there are a large number of segments in the population who look at tax prep as, ‘I have to get it done.’ But we know that people are leaving money on the table. Our value proposition that’s all about getting your taxes won came out of the idea that our expertise is important because it means more money in people’s pockets.”


@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.
Publish date: February 2, 2017 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/hr-block-and-ibm-watson-are-teaming-up-for-taxes-and-the-super-bowl/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT