If it sounds like a new reality television show, it almost is. Trial lawyers who advertise on TV also watch it, clearly, as even they are taking note of the ubiquity of their commercials, with locally and regionally based firms using the opening to attack their national competitors in this fiercely contested ad space.
From the Great Recession in 2008 onwards, the upward trend of trial lawyer TV advertising continued unabated even while the rest of the advertising industry took a hit. This ad category has grown by 68% over the past eight years from $531 million in 2008 to nearly $900 million for 2015. Legal services has grown six times faster than all other advertising sectors, according a recent Kantar Media CMAG study for the US Chamber of Commerce, while doubling its share of local spot advertising.
Trial lawyers appear to be noticing their ascendancy on the nation’s television screens—whether through anecdotal evidence or focus groups—as they have become self-referential in their creatives. This messaging typically consists of their urging viewers to retain their services because they are a local business, attacking larger competitors who advertise on TV as usually referral lines operating at the behest of uncaring national firms.
The Prim Law Firm, based in West Virginia, is up with two commercials this year touching on both asbestos exposure and “national law firms trolling for mesothelioma cases here in West Virginia. To national firms, you’re just another number.” Sokolove Law Offices, a national leader in legal advertising, begins one of their recent ads with stereotypical messaging meant to capture the viewer’s attention but then acknowledged, “Many of you tune out these commercials.”
- $531M spent by law firms on TV advertising in 2008
- $900M spent in 2015
As the chart above indicates, spending on ads containing these messages is back on the upswing after experiencing a dip in recent years. After a high exceeding $2.1 million in 2012, CMAG can project $1.5 million in spending on ads containing these messages in 2016 assuming the current spending trend holds.
Detroit-based attorney Geoffrey Fieger leads this particular pack. He has aired these sorts of ads 743 times this year. The colorful, mercurial Fieger opines, “Every day, people are forced to settle for less than they need or deserve. Why? Because their lawyer doesn’t really try cases; they only advertise on TV and never go to court.”
Florida-based Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley is a distant second with 377 airings of legal ads decrying other legal ads. In their ads, the firm takes the appearance of leveling with the viewer with this text on screen: “We get it. There are a lot of lawyer ads on TV. Seems all you hear are lawyers talking. So, this 30 seconds of silence is brought to you by Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley…”
Not surprisingly, Michigan and Florida markets figure prominently among this advertising strategy. In the first three months of 2016, the Fieger Law Firm has spent a total of $550,000 on 2,932 spot occurrences while Searcy, Denney has spent $205,000 on 952 occurrences, boosting Detroit and West Palm Beach to #1 and #2 in occurrences of this type of spot, with other Michigan and Florida markets claiming slots #3 through #6.
As is the case with the overwhelming majority of legal advertising, these ads are geared towards a daytime TV audience; with over $280,000 spent on this daypart thus far in 2016. What sets legal services apart from other advertising sectors is that all these sponsors almost uniformly target daytime viewers. If the legal advertising category continues to grow at the aforementioned pace, we can feel certain that the phenomenon of trial lawyers decrying trial lawyer advertising will continue to grow, as well.