By Les Luchter
March 19, 2009
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

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’s 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" ( was complaining about the practices of The Money Store (,
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

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