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Ask the LMA Experts

Is Super Bowl Advertising Worth It for a Law Firm?

By The Editors

Question: We saw the TV ad the Georgia lawyer created for the Super Bowl and also heard that a national law firm spent a ton of money on Super Bowl advertising a few years ago. Was that a good idea? I think it was awfully expensive. Is this kind of TV advertising generally successful?

Joe CalveJoe Calve: It’s hard to say whether a specific marketing tactic makes economic sense. That includes a tactic as big and brash as PI lawyer Jamie Casino’s “batshit amazing” (as Deadspin called it) two-minute ad that aired on the Savannah Fox affiliate during the Super Bowl.

How much did Casino spend? What was his objective? Lead generation? How did he do? Will enough of those leads convert into actual cases that deliver big-money settlements and verdicts that stick?

Maybe it will prove wildly effective. Maybe not. All that’s clear right now is that the thing hit a chord and generated an avalanche of attention for Mr. Casino. If that was the objective, maybe it’s a winner already. But most successful PI lawyers are as numbers savvy and cold-blooded as any private equity type when it comes to running their portfolios. More so. After all, they’re playing with their money — not other people’s.

On the other hand, let’s take a corporate firm. Even the big ones aren’t built for successful TV advertising. They are, in the end, relatively small businesses unlikely to invest the money in developing, airing and tracking campaigns likely to move buyers at the high end of the legal services market. Let’s face it: Most law firm campaigns, even Bingham’s benign animal antics, are not going to send the social media viral-o-meter shooting into the red zone. And clients today may just look askance at a firm willing to spend millions on big-time TV ads instead of investing in new ways to add value to the services they provide.

That means any big firm considering such a tactic might face better odds laying the investment on red or black at the roulette table. His name aside, when it comes to TV advertising, it’s Mr. Casino who is less likely to be spinning the wheel here.

Joe Calve is chief marketing officer of Morrison & Foerster, one of the world’s leading law firms. He is responsible for leading the firm’s global business development, marketing and communications efforts. A former lawyer and journalist who writes and speaks frequently on topics related to the business of law, journalism and legal marketing, he is co-executive editor of the Legal Marketing Association’s magazine, Strategies. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCalve.

Tina EmersonTina Emerson: Advertising choices depend on who you want to reach and if you think the result will be worth your investment. In the case of this obviously high-dollar advertisement, the lawyer was looking for a way to communicate to viewers at home that he takes his practice personally. And, let’s be honest, he was looking for publicity. So with those two goals in mind, I would say he succeeded in doing those things. Although the Super Bowl ad lasted two minutes, it lives in infamy on the Internet and, well, we’re talking about it right now, aren’t we?

With that said, advertising legal services on television is primarily reserved for those lawyers who need to reach the consumer directly, with television being the most efficient way. For firms that practice insurance defense or mortgage banking, for example, this medium is virtually useless. Marketing dollars should be spent where the clients are, and if your target market is at home watching television, then go for it, but springing for the Super Bowl time slot is unnecessary.

Tina Emerson is marketing director at Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC, in Columbia, S.C. With 15 years of B2B communications experience, she leads the marketing and business development efforts for the firm’s offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. She serves on the publications committee of Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @tfemerson.

Ian TurvillIan Turvill: The gamble made by Jamie Casino (the somehow aptly named lawyer) on advertising during the Super Bowl paid off big-time. The ad itself is very much in tune with the brand he wants to project, and its viral nature means its impact was magnified many times over. I would wager it has generated significant new personal injury leads for him.

But does this mean other types of firms — perhaps a BigLaw one — should roll the dice on this type of TV advertising, too? Most likely not, simply because large national firms more often address the needs of corporations rather than consumers. There are only a few business-to-business brands that can advertise effectively through television. These include “brand-name companies” such as IBM, UPS and Accenture, with large top-line numbers. The proportion of their target clients tuning into the Super Bowl is relatively small, but despite this, the returns are attractive because the ads can initiate and influence substantial ongoing purchases. The revenues of even the largest law firms are dwarfed by comparison, and the economics simply don’t work.

As importantly, does TV advertising even bring in the “high rollers”? Is the GC or CFO persuaded to choose one firm over another because of TV advertising? Do they even need to see a TV ad to be made aware of potential legal representatives? The answer to both questions is no. Instead, they will consult with colleagues and peers, and if necessary, they will engage in an extensive selection process: Advertising during a national championship game will have no impact.

If a firm wants the odds in its favor, it would be far better to rent a corporate suite at the stadium for 20 of its best prospects. I think that even Jamie Casino would consider that a good bet!

Ian Turvill is the CMO of Freeborn & Peters LLP, a full-service firm headquartered in Chicago. Turvill is currently a co-chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s Think Tank. He was previously elected as the National Marketing Scholar of the Year by the American Marketing Association. Follow him on Twitter @IanTurvill.

The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.

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Categories: Ask the Experts, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published March 5, 2014
Last updated February 2, 2019
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