Magazine article Marketing

Finding a Less Taxing Look for the Revenue

Magazine article Marketing

Finding a Less Taxing Look for the Revenue

Article excerpt

The pitch team entered the room with some trepidation. How would the Inland Revenue react to a caricature of a taxman in his underpants?

Fortunately for ad agency Leagas Shafron Davis Ayer, the men in the grey suits liked the idea and last September it won the [pounds]25m three-year campaign to publicise the new self-assessment tax scheme.

The ads went on air last week and so far the response has been impressive, with 18,200 calls in just seven days.

In September, once the initial celebrations were over, Leagas Shafron began to realise the enormity of the task.

"Our research told us how much people hate anything to do with taxes," says Leagas Shafron account planner Colette Hopkins. "Their instinct is to ignore the Inland Revenue."

It is a problem that is not only limited to taxes. It's easy enough to interest people in a new beer, but for some organisations the public has no interest in what they have to say.

Terrifying approach

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to telling people something they don't want to hear. The first is to get on a high horse and terrify people into listening.

A typical example was the 'icebergs and graves' campaign publicising Aids in 1986, which was a disaster because people switched off, refusing to believe that the HIV virus had anything to do with them.

Perhaps more effective are the 'Big Brother' threats: that the TV detector van is only one street away or that the car-tax disk spotters are on the loose. People may loathe being made to feel like naughty' schoolchildren but the majority do conform.

The other approach is to be honest, explain the facts without being condescending and inject some much-needed humour.

This was the approach taken by Leagas Shafron. "We needed the shock of the new to get the message across," says Leagas Shafron account director Nick Webb. "We felt a parody of a taxman was the best way to do it because you have to be straight with the consumer or they switch off. …

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