Law Firms Waste Billions on Crappy Advertising

Stephen_coneI'm at the "Strategic Marketing for the Modern Law Firm" conference in Chicago sponsored by the Ark Group. Keynote speaker Stephen A. Cone, Managing Director and Head of Advertising and Brand Management for Citigroup Global Wealth Management, told the audience that law firms are wasting billions by creating "crappy advertising."

"The problem is that advertising is all homogenized "Kodak moments" - the same old stuff --  pictures older couple walking on beach or a car on a wet street -- it all looks the same," he said.

Cone is a frequent lecturer at Harvard, MIT and Columbia Business Schools, and is the author of book Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star! ($12.89 on

Among the challenges marketers face is stopping the human eye, which speeds across a magazine or brochure page at 100 miles per hour.  "How do you stop the eye that's moving that fast to focus on your message?"

Plus there's a lot of clutter: The average American adult will spend 9.3 hours a day with TV, radio, Internet, newspapers, recorded music, magazines, books, DVD, video games, wireless and movies.  Most of the time is spent watching TV and listening to the radio. "The Internet has 30 million available Web sites but most people go to only 11," Cone said.

Three keys to success

  1. You need to create visual or sensual excitement in your ad.  "Sound is 10-15 times more powerful than sight, that's why TV and radio so important.  You can hear a song you heard 30 years ago and remember the words," he said.
  2. Your message must have real news in it that will make readers pay attention.
  3. You must have a compelling call to action - exhorting a reader to go to your Web site or take five minutes to call you.

The trick is to create a sense of intimacy with the prospect.  Examples:

  • iPod ad - depicting woman in black with a outline of white wires.  "The ad says, 'It's my personal music device,'" Cone said.   "It's exiting, it's fantastic."
  • American Express ad - using catchy pictures of famous people - like a man being nuzzled by a big white horse -- with a personal profile about what makes them tick.

To read his 11 Quick Advertising Techniques, visit
on the LawMarketing Portal.

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Kevin Reifler - September 14, 2006 9:33 AM

Ad agencies are frightened of law firms. They consider them extremely tough-to-please clients and tend not to show their best work to the partners, who they feel won't agree on anything anyway.

This fear factor results in the lame law firm ads you see in legal and business pubs.

Ben Glass - September 16, 2006 2:01 PM

Another reason that you get lame advertising from ad agencies is that they are petrified of running a direct response type ad or doing anything else that would make results trackable. Ad agencies view "success" as "we win an advertising award" but the client's only measure of success should be "did we make any money on this ad?" Ask and ad agency to charge by the response the ad actually generates and you can hear the gasps from a mile away.

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