Advertising Age reported H&R Block is the latest advertiser to reassign its account sans a formal review. The tax preparer handed $155 million in billings to Fallon. If H&R Block held a pitch, would it qualify as a tax write-off? The decision ultimately blocked minority agencies from being considered—and perpetuated the exclusivity and buddy system that stifles all attempts at industry diversity. Somebody should audit H&R Block’s bullshit commitment to inclusive work environments.
H&R Block Taps Fallon for $155M Account Without Review
CMO Turtledove Puts Marketing Stamp on Company
By Rupal Parekh
NEW YORK -- H&R Block is shifting creative duties on its $155 million account to Publicis Groupe’s Fallon from Omnicom Group’s DDB without a review.
The agency change comes nearly a year after Robert Turtledove, who has previously held marketing positions at Pizza Hut and online information service LiveAdvice.com, left his chief marketing officer seat at job site TheLadders.com to become CMO at H&R Block.
By handing lead agency duties to Minneapolis-based Fallon—the shop Mr. Turtledove hired while he was at TheLadders.com—Mr. Turtledove sends a clear sign he’s ready to put his stamp on the company. The move comes on the heels of the abrupt departure of H&R Block CEO Russ Smyth earlier this month.
When Mr. Turtledove stepped into the CMO role at H&R Block last summer, it was just after the company dumped its agency of nine years, Campbell Mithun, in favor of DDB. Many speculated the move was sparked by Mr. Smyth’s ties to DDB, solidified after 21 years at McDonald’s Corp.
Earlier this year in an interview with Ad Age, Mr. Turtledove was complimentary of DDB and touted having its account consolidated at a single holding company.
He said at the time: “In addition to DDB handling advertising, we have Tribal doing online and social media, Ketchum doing PR, Alma doing our Latino campaign and Rapp doing direct marketing. The oft-promised integration and synergy of working within a holding company is something we are realizing. There is real-time sharing of information and updating, and we have a more consistent voice now going to market.”
DDB referred calls to the client.
In a statement released today, Mr. Turtledove had this to say: “DDB is a world-class agency, and we are proud of and grateful for the work we accomplished together. We will continue working with Tribal DDB on several fronts, and OMD remains as the media agency of record. At the same time, the ever-evolving tax industry and consumer environment often demands different marketing approaches at different times. In that spirit, and based on our previous experiences working together, we believe that Fallon is the right partner to help us grow our business going forward.”
The win marks the second big account Fallon has snagged in the matter of a month. In early July, it was tapped by General Motors’ new marketing chief Joel Ewanick as the lead creative shop for Cadillac’s $270 million account, succeeding Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
H&R Block, which is estimated to have handled 15% of all tax returns last year, spends the bulk of its large ad budget in the first half of the year around tax season. According to Kantar Media, the company devoted $123 million in domestic measured media between January and May of 2010. In 2009, it spent $155 million, according to Kantar.
The pressure is on Fallon to deliver strong creative advertising that will help stabilize H&R Block at a tumultuous time. The 55-year-old tax-preparation company had to install a new CEO, Alan Bennett, in the wake of Mr. Smyth’s departure. It also recently parted ways with board member Tom Bloch, the last member of the H&R Block’s founding family to have ties to the company.