Neiman’s Tax Amnesty Ads for Pennsylvania Successfully Strikes a Nerve
PA 'Tax Pay-Up' Shatters Previous Record and Exceeds $190 Million Goal, Amid National Buzz Over Message
Philadelphia, PA — It was a call to action heard round the nation, thanks to a healthy dose of viral banter. Under the direction of the Pennsylvania Governor's Office and Department of Revenue, Neiman's ad concept for the 2010 Tax Amnesty program created a buzz far beyond Pennsylvania's borders. In the end, Pennsylvania's integrated communications campaign with creative inspiration from Neiman, not only helped to shatter the previous record but it successfully helped to collect $261 million in back taxes — exceeding the target by $71 million.
Pennsylvania's second-ever tax amnesty plan had a modest budget and just 54 days to motivate tax delinquents to pay what they owed in back taxes. The multi-platform campaign included Neiman's strategy and creative for TV, web banners, e-mails, earned media, radio spots, and print ads addressed to both delinquents and their accountants. Interactive media were key since payment was only being accepted online (see the work at www.neimangroup.com). The campaign also included an aggressive PR component that was carried out collaboratively between the Department of Revenue and Neiman.
The controversy fired up about three seconds after the campaign did. Whether they thought it was a big idea or Big Brother, everyone had an opinion. From Whoopi Goldberg on The View to Bill O'Reilly on FOX, from the National Republican Trust Pac to hilarious YouTube spinoffs, a national nerve clearly was hit.
"Did we make Pennsylvania seem a little tough? Well, that was exactly the idea and direction," said Hutson Kovanda, VP, Executive Creative Director at Neiman. "I don't think you can ever anticipate whether a campaign will generate conversation. Ultimately, that's the goal though, and the fact that it was getting a lot of attention tells me that we struck a nerve. We got people to notice, to think, to talk and to debate on a national level about a statewide campaign. It dramatically extended the reach of what was a limited media buy and helped the Commonwealth exceed its target. "
This was only the second Tax Amnesty in Pennsylvania history. The first, in 1995, collected $93 million over a longer 90-day period. In addressing reporters one day prior to the amnesty deadline, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell cited the ad campaign's effectiveness.
"Our ads, because they are controversial, have got a lot of coverage and people know a lot about them," Gov. Rendell said. "And I think they're very effective and very fair. Because 97-percent of us pay our taxes, and we're crippled by the 3-percent who don't. And I think the ads are a little tough and a little edgy, but they ought to be."
Neiman CEO Tim Reeves credits Governor Rendell for challenging the agency to push the creative envelope.
"We embraced the Governor's challenge," said Reeves. "There were some who felt a softer approach was the safer way to go. And it would have been easier for the Governor to defend that strategy. But the Revenue Department had less time to collect more back taxes than the previous amnesty period and this program was in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Governor Rendell knew 'soft' wasn't going to get the job done. The results speak for themselves, and we couldn't be more proud to have helped the Rendell Administration with this pivotally important effort that will help fund education and other essential services through an ongoing tough economy."
The campaign's media buy was implemented by Harmelin Media of Philadelphia. Neiman's minority partners on the Commonwealth business Mendoza Group, Inc. and Brown Partners developed materials specific to the Latino and African-American markets.