Hey, Look At All These Cute Babies Failing In Various Ways!

There's a new TV spot for TurboTax and it is very, very interesting.

Not because it's a tax-prep ad. After all, 'tis the season, just as it's the season for, say, diet and gym ads. It's a whole new year of possibilities, and -- if you are a flaccid American -- it is at least theoretically possible you will lose 30 pounds and maintain your new weight for years to come. Just as it is theoretically possible you'll get an ambassadorship.

The 30-second spot also isn't especially interesting on the grounds of its message. The research obviously shows that what holds people back from buying TurboTax software is their unfounded lack of confidence in their ability to navigate it. Hence the sloganization of the brief: “It's amazing what you're capable of.” A tough sell, against the twin obstacles of technophobia and taxphobia. The myth of the 1040 as a Gordian knot, long retailed by the GOP and H & R Block, is silly.

The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of filers can do their taxes in about 8 minutes with a ballpoint pen while live-tweeting "Judge Judy." So, probably, could their dogs.

But never mind that. What caught my attention about the ad was the story Wieden+Kennedy contrived to pound home the self-reliance message. The video opens tight on a baby girl, about 6 months old. Her face is covered in what looks like strained carrots and green beans. Then comes the voiceover:

“Did you make a person last year -- a very tiny person that’s…really bad at eating? You know the answer to that, so you’re the best person to do your taxes. Intuit TurboTax. It’s amazing what you’re capable of.”

So what’s so interesting about that? Well, it’s not the analogy. Supposing there is some parallel between new parents' ability to navigate childrearing and their undiscovered inner CPAs, exactly what kind of sudden onset of latent accountancy is required to fill in the dependent-children box on the 1040 with “1?” Metaphor-wise, this is what we in the typing trade call “a stretch.”  But wait…

What did that narrator say to the kid with the baby-food masque? “Bad at eating?” Golly, that sounds so familiar. So very, very interestingly familiar.

Yep, a previous video featured a 9-month-old kid with strained yams caked on his face and his hysterical father squeaking, “Oscar, you are so bad at eating!”  That made its way around the Internet a couple of years back, racking up more than a million views, plus many million more on "Tosh 2.0" and the "Ellen DeGeneres" show. Plus, I myself have shown it to about 40 ballrooms full of marketing people. And I wrote about it in my last book.

This for two reasons. First, the video was originally posted as a test of how an inherently amusing home video could go viral without any paid seeding -- a prelude to my own experiment pitting money-related video harvested from YouTube against funny ads produced by a regional bank card. Both efforts suggested relevant home videos can organically outperform expensively produced ads on the same topic. Which would be problematic for the 30-second spot industry.

Oh, and the second reason? The messy twins in the home video are my grandsons, bless their hearts. So, as I said to Wieden+Kennedy in inquiring about the provenance of the TurboTax concept, “I have a more than passing interest.”

No worries, though. The agency assured me the coincidence is just a coincidence; the copywriter is a new dad and…you know. Whatever.

The interesting, interesting, interesting thing to me was to see how this spot -- with a proven share-worthy concept all but torn from documented real life -- would fare online, boosted by a very significant seeding element in the form of a TV buy.  Because, were it to seriously outperform my darling Twins Eating Lunch, I’d have to maybe suggest prying one coffin nail from the 30-second spot.

So I checked YouTube. After three weeks: 506 views. So what can we Intuit from that?

Tags: advertising
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2 comments about "Hey, Look At All These Cute Babies Failing In Various Ways! ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 27, 2014 at 9:16 a.m.
    Maybe they thought it was a good idea because so many parents forgot to sign up all their kids on their healthcare applications and then complained all their kids weren't covered.
  2. Kate Berg from Collective Bias , January 28, 2014 at 9:54 a.m.
    Thanks for picking that bone...good one Bob. I'll look forward to the ultimate twist..one of those grandson's internship at W+K in a few years. ;)