During the late 1990s, the figurehead for the Inland Revenue was one Hector the Inspector. A cute cartoon character originally conceived to soften the impact of introducing Self Assessment, and voiced by Sir Alec Guinness (er, no BBC, not Alex) – he was eventually killed off in 2001. As the Telegraph reported, ‘Hector’s popularity appear(ed) to have got out of control.’ Indeed… how many articles have you read lately marking the end of a government ad campaign?
Now we’re being gently nagged by Adam Hart-Davis to get our tax returns in, or face a fine. I wonder how much they’re paying for the airtime, or indeed the celebrity endorsement. So instead, I think it’s time to bring back Hector!
I’m feeling generous after receiving a tax refund at the weekend, so here’s a free tip for HMRC. Get on to Facebook, and set up Hector The Inspector as a person. Encourage people to make him their friend. Then, when Hector updates his status – ‘Hector reminds you to get your tax return in before the 31st’, for example – they’ll see it in their Facebook feed. Hey, if you can find further fun in finance and fiscal matters, Hector could become quite the comedian. Even better… set up a Twitter account (‘hectortheinspector‘ is still available, as I write this). Then use the Twittersync application to update Facebook automatically. That way, you can hit two communities for the price of one.
Setup cost: zero. Setup time: maybe 15 minutes? Potential audience – well, granted, getting people to make friends with Hector is the hard part, but with 2% of all UK internet visits going to Facebook, the potential is huge. As I’ve mused before, Facebook’s news feed is doing for the mass audience what RSS has done for (us) geeks. And in Hector, HMRC have a ready-made personification, ready to go.