financial services

It's Been March Madness For Jackson Hewitt

  • by March 19, 2009
Magic Johnson for Jackson Hewitt The month of March kind of came in like a lion for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

First, a group of more than 240 nonprofits called the California Reinvestment Coalition protested company spokesman Magic Johnson's endorsement of the firm's "Money Now Loan," part of the category called "refund anticipation loans."

Next, in reporting its third-quarter fiscal 2009 results, the firm projected full-year declines in tax returns prepared, revenues and earnings per share. Then, it suspended its quarterly dividend.

On the plus side, Jackson Hewitt announced it would be the exclusive tax preparation provider in all Walmart stores starting with the 2010 tax season. It currently services Walmart customers in 1,200 of that chain's 2,250 stores--representing nearly 20% of Jackson Hewitt's total 6,600 offices.

And now comes "March Magic." To celebrate what it calls the "exciting transformation of winter to spring," Jackson Hewitt on Monday said its customers will be receiving a "Collector's Edition Magic Johnson Autograph Card" plus an undisclosed discount on tax preparation.

But wait. On Tuesday, the lion roared again as three more advocacy groups joined the California coalition in calling on Johnson to stop promoting Jackson Hewitt's "Money Now Loan." The Woodstock Institute, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project and the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina, along with the California Reinvestment Coalition, also denounced another recently announced Magic Johnson partnership--with the Rent-A-Center chain, which the groups called "another purveyor of high-cost lending."

That ad campaign, which launched Feb. 23, features TV and radio spots in which Johnson, according to Rent-A-Center's launch announcement, "calls attention to the availability of brand-name merchandise via an easy, worry-free experience without the need for credit or credit checks." The ongoing campaign--which also includes print, online and in-store elements--was created by agencies Launch and RAZOR, both in Dallas, with Omnicom's OMD Chicago planning and buying the broadcast media.

Jackson Hewitt introduced Johnson as its spokesperson in November, and he has since been featured in an integrated marketing and ad campaign that includes direct mail, in-store, TV, radio, print, out-of-home and online, with agencies undisclosed. He is also pictured prominently on the Jackson Hewitt Web site--which, the opposition groups say, has featured a 20% discount for customers who order Johnson's book, 32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a lone blogger on "Low Interest Student Loans" (http://yudigg.net/is-it-possible-to-remove-a-second-mortgage-lien-after-a-bankruptcy.html) was complaining about the practices of The Money Store (www.themoneystore.com/), which toils on quietly years after another famed retired athlete, Phil Rizzuto, served as its spokesman with much less chagrin than Magic Johnson is enduring (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDQHQkuv9l0).

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