How Brands Adjusted TV Ads to Extended Tax Season

After years of predictability, tax season was thrown for a loop these past two years. In 2020, the pandemic pushed the tax filing deadline to July 15. In 2021, the date was May 17 in most states. These adjustments forced tax filing services to rethink typical TV advertising strategies — both from a creative standpoint and where ads are placed.

What were some of the biggest changes for these brands over the last year and a half? Here’s a look at how tax filing services stacked up on TV and what changed in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019.

TurboTax Increases Share of Voice

TurboTax was the most-seen tax brand on TV for the last three years and used the extended season to increase its share of impressions even further. After accounting for 43% of tax filing service TV ad impressions in 2019, TurboTax increased to 48.2% in 2020 and 52.5% in 2021. 

While the brand appeared during the NFL Playoffs for all three years, the big change that led to higher spend and more TV ad impressions in 2021 was an increased presence during the NCAA Tournament. TurboTax’s estimated ad spend on college basketball (from the start of each respective tax season through that year’s deadline) shows this year’s dramatic increase:

  • Jan. 1-April 15, 2019: $1.0 million
  • Jan. 1-July 15, 2020: $88K (NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament cancelled)
  • Jan. 1-May 17, 2021: $9.5 million

In 2021, TurboTax increased spend by 21.5% year-over-year, while impressions jumped over 8.8%. Even with the longer filing period in 2020, TurboTax didn’t spend a single dollar on TV ads after April. But in 2021, the brand advertised through May 17.

Emphasis on Digital Filing

In 2019, five of the 10 most-seen tax ads emphasized digital capabilities (mobile or desktop), and the same was true in 2020 since most spots had already been produced prior to the pandemic. In 2021, six of the top 10 emphasized digital and accounted for 54% of all Tax Service TV ad impressions. By comparison, the five digital-focused tax ads made up just 29% of all industry impressions in 2020 (and just over 24% for the five back in 2019).

The top 2021 Tax Service spot was H&R Block’s “File Virtually,” which made up 20.5% of all industry ad impressions for the year (about 2.5x times the second most-seen spot). For H&R Block, nearly every TV ad impression in 2021 focused on virtual filing capabilities.

Back to Primetime

Primetime programming accounted for 31% of tax filing TV ad impressions in 2019. That number dipped to just 25% in 2020 as tentpole programming and sports disappeared during what’s normally the home stretch of tax season. With sports and tentpole events back in 2021, primetime impressions were back to 31% of the total for tax services. Meanwhile, weekend afternoon programming (fueled by the NFL Playoffs and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament) made up over 15% of TV ad impressions.

Overall, sports was a much larger part of this year’s ad strategy than the last couple tax seasons. Sports-related shows accounted for about 18.5% of all TV ad impressions in 2021. That number was about 13.5% in 2020 and around 17% in 2019. The increase comes largely from an increased focus on NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament advertising (specifically for TurboTax) instead of the longer tax season, allowing spots to appear during more sporting events overall.

Interested in learning more about how brands have adjusted TV ad strategies over the last year? Schedule a demo with iSpot today to hear more about how we can inform your ad buying to be real-time and future-proof.