The Most Inauthentic Television Ad I’ve Ever Seen

Preparing your taxes can be a joyous experience! (Stick with me here…)

inauthenticityWhen you pay your taxes, you get to relive all the great things you did all year. You get to share your  life story — record the fact that you got married (finally!), bought a new house (hooray!) and had a baby (awesome!). What a year! Taxes are a recap — the story of your year!

Hold on…! I give up… I can’t maintain this charade. Preparing your taxes is not a joyous act of story-telling. It’s a hassle. But the folks who peddle Intuit’s TurboTax want you to think otherwise. 

I borrowed all of this tax-filing-is-fun nonsense from a TurboTax television advertisement. I saw the ad while watching a football game over the holidays. I immediately turned to my wife and said, “That is the most inauthentic television ad I’ve ever seen.” 

We talk a lot about authenticity at MarketVolt. When you market  your business, share with the marketplace the authentic story of why you exist. Provide real, authentic value. Make promises to deliver value, and keep those promises. If you do all of this, you will grow your business. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

A small disclaimer: I have nothing against Intuit. I have used the company’s products, and I think they are fine. I wrote this post because the story in this ad seems to have nothing to do with the story of why I — or others — buy tax preparation software.

Here’s the ad… (I’d be interested to know what you think about it. Please comment below.)


  1. The end is a letdown – not a touchdown. We’re led to believe that tax returns are part of a positive life experience, but most people aren’t going to intuit this scenario! The best approach is to help people plan ahead so they can be better prepared at tax time. That’s authentic!

  2. Tom, it’s a fair point. The spot gets overzealous and crosses the line into incredulity. If their aim is to make people believe that doing taxes is fun and emotionally rewarding, then that is indeed ridiculous. What I like about this spot, however, is the underlying strategy. Faced with mammoth competition from H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and others, Turbo Tax makes two powerfully competitive points: 1) nobody knows what you did last year better than you (so you are most qualified to fill out your forms), and 2) TT makes it as easy as the simplest questionnaire (so you’re not intimidated). I’d like to point out that the real reason this spot fails is the Voice Over, whose acting fails to bring across the tongue in cheek copy. For that reason, it comes off as disastrously earnest and ruins what could actually be an award winning spot.

  3. Wonderful commentary. I do believe they missed the core issues completely. They could have focused on demystifying the process, or finding simple solutions in a complex and fast world, or create more time with family by minimizing time wasting on tax prep… I could go on. Most Turbo taxers are use this solution instead of other DIY solutions.

    Tax prep is annoying and deeply frustrating – acknowledge that; Good tax prep finds sources of capital that are surprising nuggets to spend on love ones; And, Good tax prep systems gives you back time to share with family and friends.

  4. Tom Ruwitch says:

    Thanks for the comments, all. And John, good points. Of course nobody knows what you did last year better than you, but a good accountant is going to run YOU through the same questions that TurboTax asks. An accountant is not guessing what you did. You still go through the exercise of recounting your year whether you use the software or hire an accountant. Your second point is spot on. TT is the simplest and least intimidating solution. They hint at that, but they really bury that concept in this ad. All good marketing speaks to our desires and/or our fears. This ad suggests that we desire to document and share our awesome life story. But that’s simply not what most of us desire to do. Nearly all of us fear the headache and hassle associated with tax filing. Rather than ignore/hide/belie the headache and hassle, face it. Tax filing can be a headache and a hassle, but we make it simple. We relieve the headache and hassle. That’s the true brand. I also agree with you, John, re: the voice over.

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