Free Tax Filing and the Revolutionary War

Free Tax Filing and the Revolutionary War

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Coming at the start of tax season, The Super Bowl is perfect timing for TurboTax.

This year’s TurboTax Super Bowl ad is a big improvement over last year’s effort.  Last year, TurboTax spent most of the time telling viewers that watching the Super Bowl when your team isn’t playing (and that’s most of their audience) is like watching the girl you love at the prom with another guy.  This year, the whole ad dramatizes Turbo Tax’s main selling point—free tax filing.

TurboTax wants viewers to not just learn that federal taxes can be filed for free but to sense how great it feels to file one’s taxes for free.

The ad, of course, is illogical.  The cost of filing taxes was not what led to the American Revolution and free tax filing would not have stopped the Boston Tea Party or Washington’s crossing of the Delaware.  That doesn’t matter.  Ads are not about literal truth or factual accuracy.  An ad is a fictional story that a brand tells potential customers.  If the story is interesting enough and provocative enough to get people thinking that it might be nice to do business with the brand, the ad works.

While this ad does work, it seems to be trying very hard to be funny and not quite making it.  It’s like a joke told by someone who desperately wants a laugh rather than by a good storyteller.

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