Physics Geniuses Illustrate the Mind-Bending Simplicity of TurboTax in W+K’s New Ads

Campaign will include a Super Bowl spot

Winning a Cannes Lion or a Gold Clio would make George Smoot's Nobel Prize for Physics look like garbage, right? 

In Wieden + Kennedy's latest TurboTax campaign, some of the world's greatest intellects school average folks on how easy it is to use the online tax preparation system. S. James Gates Jr., Michio Kaku, Franklin Chang Diaz and Smoot are among the smarties appearing in a series of 30-second spots tagged, "It doesn't take a genius to do your taxes." 

In one commercial, theoretical physicist Kaku explains the concept of "absolute zero" as it applies to TurboTax, which charges nothing for its service. "Nothing is the absence of something," he says. "Zero is absolutely nothing." (Bravo, brainiac!) 

In a Spanish-language ad, physicist astronaut Diaz shows a befuddled father how to claim his kids as dependents, though he misses an easy basket during a driveway pickup game. (Suck it, Poindexter! Who says nothing beats an astronaut?)

"The ads bring new innovations to life, demonstrating how TurboTax addresses consumers' doubts and empowers them to get every dollar they deserve," says Greg Johnson, svp of marketing for Intuit's Consumer Tax Group. 

W+K and multicultural agency Grupo Gallegos handled creative chores, with Smuggler's Randy Krallman directing the amusing commercials, which run through April 18, supported by radio, digital and social outreach. 

TurboTax will also air a "Genius" spot during Super Bowl 50, marking the brand's third straight appearance on the big game, and its follow-up to 2015's droll "Boston Tea Party" ad. (In addition, one of three finalists in parent company Intuit's "Small Business, Big Game" contest will have an ad produced by RPA for the Feb. 7 CBS telecast.)

One question, though: If they're really such geniuses, why don't they show us how to avoid paying taxes? The mind reels. 

More variants below.


Client: Intuit TurboTax

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Creative Directors Max Stinson, Scott Kaplan, Erik Fahrenkopf

Copywriter Jason Turner

Art Director Joe Albert

Senior Producer Erika Madison

Account Team Courtney Nelson, Vanessa Miller, Anna Boteva

Executive Creative Directors Joe Staples / Mark Fitzloff

Head of Production Ben Grylewicz

Strategic Planning Christine Sheehan, Nathan Goldberg

Project Management Laurie Holtz

Production Company Smuggler

Director Randy Krallman

Executive Producer Shannon Jones

Line Producer Ian Blain

Director of Photography Manel Ruiz

Editorial Company Mackenzie Cutler

Editor Erik Laroi

Assistant Editors Maria Lee/Sarah Krusen

Executive Producer Sasha Hirschfeld

Sound Designer Sam Shaffer

VFX Company Joint

Lead Flame Artist Katrina Salicrup

2D Artists David Jahns, Stephan Lectez, Robert Murdock, Noah Poole

VFX Producer Steve Griffith

VFX Coordinator Nathanael Horton

VFX Executive Producer

Graphics + Animation

WK Motion Producers Sarah Gamazo/Michael Gersten

WK Motion Designers  James Heredia/Peiter Hergert

WK Studio Managers Sally Garrido-Spencer/Amy Streger

WK Studio Designers Eric Reigert/Dana Beaty

Telecine Company Company 3

Colorist Sean Coleman

Producer Matt Moran

Mix Company Joint

Mixer Noah Woodburn

Producer Sarah Fink

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.