A popular (Partner blaming) debate on how law firms have failed to make the most of their marketing staff has made me think about how legal services are marketed.
Mainly when we think of legal advertising, it’s campaigns from non-regulated legal service providers that spring to mind.
If anyone is relieved by the gradual lull in advertising from mis-sold PPI insurance claim companies, they might not be best pleased with the radio advertisement assault from sickholiday.com (a team of holiday food poisoning compensation specialists) that will put you off eating any hotel food abroad, for a lifetime.
So why is it that when legal services meets advertising, the result is either unpleasant, underwhelming, or usually involves personal injury claims?
Can we apply basic principles of advertising?
Perhaps its because marketing law firms is too challenging even for the most able of creative marketers? Bravely putting myself in their position, here’s what happened when I tried to apply some common marketing principles to High Street legal services:
B.O.G.O.F. offer – TODAY ONLY – buy one divorce service today, get the next one free.
Conveyancing 24/7 – We get a move on, at a fee that won’t bring the house down. Call now! (brought to you by our trusted worldwide business partners)
And the one that makes you act now:
Before you pop off, do pop in and get your Will sorted – you know it makes good sense.
Do great campaigns get vetoed by the Board?
You can see from these poor attempts just how much lawyers need help with marketing our traditional legal services. But my unprofessional opinion is that we have consistently undersold our regulated legal services in advertising due to our caution and conservatism.
I think advertising agencies have come up with some cracking campaigns, but the Partners have said “we don’t want to project this sort of image” and have gone for something dull and safe.
Is a legendary legal services campaign possible?
It would be great to understand what a really legendary advert for legal services might look/sound like – and I mean by this genuinely original AND promoting the public image of lawyers, not just showing that it was good on the basis of sales figures alone, or that it happened.
Should we stick with the conservative “visit your trustworthy (and regulated) local solicitor for a reliable service” message, or should we go for a more adventurous Lucozade style advertisement which demonstrates our talent for fastidious attention to detail and intellectual agility, whilst also injecting drama?
What about the SRA rules on Publicity?
Before we get too carried away, the SRA requirements should be considered. They really are not too restrictive – especially when you consider that the Bar Council of India do not permit law firms to advertise at all, which means you get obtain very little information from Indian law firm’s websites.
The key relevant restriction in Chapter 8 is that publicity should be accurate, not misleading, and should not diminish the public trust in you and your provision of legal services in any way.
So if you are describing a specific legal service, then you would need to carefully regard these requirements. But on my reading of this rule, this would not prevent a law firm from rolling out an abstract/general brand promoting advertisement that could leave your target audience remembering your brand, and aware that your firm could be a solution for most situations that make us think “I need a lawyer”.
And although unsolicited approaches in person and cold calling are prohibited, advertising is not – which leaves the door open to our first great advertising campaign. There are further rules relating to publicity which should be considered in full.
Can we bring about the first great advertising campaign?
Any off the cuff ideas on how to revolutionise the advertising of traditional legal services are most welcome please. Or if I’ve missed a great internet, TV or radio advertising campaign for legal services, anywhere in the world, please let me know. Should I have acknowledged the Law Society as being already responsible for a great advertising campaign?
UPDATE 20 July: Thanks to Outi Kalska who responded to a discussion on LinkedIn regarding terrible legal services advertising, we have found possibly the world’s first truly innovative and great advertisement for legal services, from Scandanavian law firm Fondia. Here’s a link to their You Tube video. Congratulations to Fondia for busting the terrible advertising curse.