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Pathmatics Blog

Creative Roundup: How Tax Software Companies Are Getting More Competitive in 2017

January 26 2017 by Jordan Kramer
tax_software_advertising_creatives.jpgThe government just started reviewing tax returns this past Monday, but the largest tax software companies have already been targeting you for weeks online. TurboTax began advertising campaigns in December of last year to create brand awareness throughout the holiday season. On New Year’s Day, TaxACT joined the race with the remaining brands kicking into gear shortly thereafter. In the past two weeks, H&R Block has released nearly all of their 274 unique digital creatives detected in the last thirty days.
We analyzed the creative strategies used by the top spending tax software advertisers, including TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxACT, to see how their creatives have changed since last year. While this category is fiercely competitive given the short timeframe throughout the year that they are fighting for consumer’s attention, the brands are really getting the gloves out this year. Calls-to-actions and overall messaging is more direct this year, and brands are naming their competitors to call them out to consumers. See how the competition for your tax filing services is heating up in 2017.

TaxACT Goes All-In On Video

TaxAct is going in the complete opposite direction of most of its competitors, investing 94% of their current digital budget on desktop video placements. Last year, the brand began testing video creatives but only spent 27% of their budget on the ad type during the same timeframe. Out of all of the top tax software companies, TaxACT is the only company investing a significant amount of their spend towards video - which may work out to their benefit throughout the season.
TaxACT still released desktop creatives, giving them a serious makeover from 2016. Creatives changed from having white backgrounds with lots of images and color, to yellow and gray backgrounds, sans images with text highlighted in red. The newer creatives are much bolder, and definitely more eye-catching than their previous campaigns. 
In the brand’s “Dare to Compare” campaign last year, the creatives set a passive tone in trying to demonstrate to consumers how much they would be saving by switching from their competitors. This year, the brand’s messaging was much more direct in stating “File For Up To 70% Less Than TurboTax and H&R Block.” The call-to-action in their 2017 creative is also bolder, encouraging consumers to "Compare Prices," rather than just "Learn More."
Video creatives appear to be targeting a millennial audience, featuring a young adult in casual clothes on their laptop trying to explain how easy it is to do their taxes to an older gentlemen in a business suit. TaxACT’s video creatives last year showcased spokeswoman Danica Patrick narrating a series of different people getting “their deal” and enjoying their tax refund on various adventrues. We have not yet seen Patrick in this year’s digital creatives.

H&R Block Calls Out Their Competition

H&R Block’s creatives have recently become more targeted against TurboTax, calling out the competitor in several of their new digital creatives. The brand is currently focusing on desktop/display advertising, funneling 81% of their digital budget to the ad type over the last thirty days. At this time last year, display only accounted for 42% of their spend while desktop video was the primary focus. The brand clearly finds more value for their investment with desktop ads, and are scaling back on mobile and video channels.
Creatives that ran last year also had opposite color styling from the campaigns we’ve detected this year. The two desktop creatives below contain the exact same copy - but the styling is entirely different as the brand opted for a lighter color scheme this year. The logo also had a touch of modern styling, pulling the brand’s name out of their icon entirely to take up some more of the white space provided by the background. Orange, instead of green was chosen this year for their call-to-actions, contrasting with the logo icon. Lastly, the font also had a modern makeover with thinner, more elongated text.
H&R Block’s campaign last year featured more copy about their own brand such as, “If You Get Audited, We’ll Represent You At No Extra Cost,” and “Taxes Done Right, Taxes Done Fast.” For their 2017 campaigns, new creatives feature copy such as “‘Free’ TurboTax Costing You Money? We Could Help You Save.” and “Switch From TurboTax. It’s Easy.” H&R Block also put more direct calls-to-action in their creatives, asking consumers to “File Free Now” rather than “File Online Now.” Clearly, the battle is on between the two top spending tax software advertisers in the Financial Services Industry. 

TurboTax Lightens Up

Literally. The background coloring of TurboTax’s new creatives this year is lighter than the navy we saw in their campaigns last year. The tax software company that is known to be one of the category’s largest spenders during this time of year, keeps their creatives very consistent year-over-year. Besides the background color changing throughout the blue color spectrum, copy and images often remain similar every year.
The styling on these two creatives is nearly identical, besides color changes and some minor formatting details. The red checkmark icon in the brand’s logo moved over to the left-hand side, giving a larger margin along the side of the creative. The ‘Absolute Zero’ subtitle shrunk down, allowing for more room for the copy and call-to-action - which is in a brighter orange color with a drop-shadow.
Pushing TurboTax’s mobile app is also a priority for the brand. Last year’s creatives promoting the app did not feature any images - rather only copy urging them to "Get [the] Free App." This year’s creatives not only showed an image of someone taking a photo of their tax form with their phone, the call-to-action was simpler: "File for $0.” The new creative directs to a landing page explaining the company's Absolute Zero package and details on the mobile app, rather than directing consumers to the app download directly. The brand clearly prefers consumers coming directly to their site to possibly convert, also giving them the opportunity for retargeting, rather than trying to get them to first download the app which may be a tougher conversion.

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About Author
Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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