Monday, March 13, 2006

Attorney Advertising and Branding

I spent the day with Attorney Eddie Farah in Jacksonville, Florida last week, and he is a walking primer about advertising and branding a Plaintiffs' Firm.

Farah has twenty-three attorneys on staff and more than eighty employees in five offices throughout Jacksonville and North Florida. He is everywhere - television, billboards, the web - but before you quickly conclude (or dismiss) the firm is a typical "TV Lawyer" Firm, a bit of background:

The Farah and Farah Firm tries cases to verdicts. The Firm's attorneys have tried to conclusion two jury verdicts with one exceeding $3.3 million dollars and another in excess of $5.8 million. The latter was a claim based on the FTCA. Eddie Farah himself tried a wrongful death case in a rural county where the top offer was $10,000 and the jury awarded $750,000.

Branding: There are quite literally thousands of attorneys and law firms advertising. Some have a clear strategy, others are in my opinion scattershot in their methods. Farah's office first and foremost has in mind branding. In many of the ads, the tag line includes "Call me Eddie." Nearly all the ads include the statement that, "We treat you the way you want to be treated." Amidst the clutter of cookie cutter ads, the talking heads, the bookshelf background, the term "no fee unless we win," his ads stand out.

It's the name - Eddie Farah - and the message. From the hold music that has a voice message, to the Internet. Consistency in the message, much like the theme in a trial. When we went to dinner in this city of more than one million it was almost surreal - people walking up to him to shake his hand, to say "thanks" and in one instance to ask for an autograph. He's been in that part of Florida for more than twenty-five years, and grew from a two attorney office to where he is now.

Advertising: His strategy has multiple components, and is viewed by Farah much like the strategy in a war. The "Air Campaign" involves (of course) television and radio. The Florida Bar has many restrictions on what can be said and how it can be said.

Farah has taken the TV ad to another level. In addition to thirty second ads - which he says are becoming more rare at least for him - he has fifteen second, ten second, and five second ads. The five second TV spot is known as an adlet. It may be simply a recorded five second spot as that leads in to local weather: "This weather is brought to you by the Law Offices of Eddie Farah, 396-XXXX." The ten second spot he considers to be a ten second "video billboard." All ads are produced on film and not videotape. He says (and I agree) that film projects a much warmer image.

Radio and the Internet: Ten and fifteen second spots are the norm for Farah in radio. He preaches that all spots are to be recorded. When it comes to the web, he is a risk taker. He sponsors legal headlines on at least one local news source on the web, and has created specific stand alone websites for different types of cases, such as securities law and arbitration.

On the Internet his site there is a wealth of information. He has multiple links, multiple sites, and he watches closely SEO.

Farah is also ahead of others in that he has his own weekly radio call-in show. It is called "The Consumer Law Hour" and airs on Saturday mornings. He pays for the full hour and of course puts his spots on during the show. Before you think that this may not work, know that the last Arbitron book had his show as the #1 rated show during the weekends and not just on that station, but as to the entire region. In fact, he has had to tell the station not to sell other lawyers' ads on his hour. There is talk of national syndication. I've been a guest on the show several times and it's a lively and informative hour. He gets the callers as well.

Phone Books and Billboards: In Atlanta attorney billboard advertising is not a particularly competitive market. You just don't see that many here, relatively speaking. In Jacksonville one of the first things you notice are the lawyer billboards. I won't address whether or not they are a good thing. I do know that the Farah billboards are "wrapped" with a photo quality skin. High production and gloss. They - to me - standout when compared to others. Several competing attorneys have simple painted on messages on billboards, some with a photograph of an attorney that can best be described as a mugshot. Not Farah's. His photograph (if there is one) is not an after thought but well made. His message is short and simple and the telephone number can be easily read.

I suggest that if you are considering a billboard, avoid the grim face. Avoid standing there with arms crossed and staff standing behind you. Keep the message short - I can't read that your Firm handles Bankruptcy, Divorce, Real Estate, Wills, Criminal Law, Injury, Wrongful Death, and Trucking Cases in the few seconds it takes for me to pass your billboard. Stick with one or two and your number. While the multiple message billboard may work in small towns, it's just a jumble of text in bigger cities, in my opinion. Perhaps a group think mentality compels firms to put them up.

When it comes to the yellow pages Farah seems to spend money to keep his position in the community viable. I part company with him on some of his strategy, but it works for his office. Farah's office includes a mix of YP spines, full page ads, back covers, quarter page ads, and more creative spots throughout the books. Once again he has a strategy mapped out first, and he keeps to it. It works.

Phone numbers: Farah is a big believer in a simple toll free "vanity" number. He uses 1-800-JUSTICE in most of his advertising. He had used another number, but found that those who were injured through no fault of their own had one underling concern: Getting justice. So for Eddie, the choice of a number was easy. I believe that a vanity number by far is the best way to go when it comes to conveying a unified message.

The Ground Campaign
: Farah's term for other ways to keep the brand out front. It has a components non-traditional ways to let the public knows about the Firm's services. Whether it is sponsoring sopecific events, or attending on a regular basis both high and low profile events throughout the community, Farah has a plan.

What is significant is what he has told me: There are many events where he is the only attorney advertising or present. Understand the significance of that last statement - Eddie Farah is there. Not a paralegal, or a young attorney, or a firm employee. I won't give away where he goes, but know that if you sit down with a a community calendar on a regular basis, you will see opportunities to not only project your brand, but you will see in those events the chance for people to know that you are a dad (or mom), a volunteer, a a member of your community. I'm not talking about Chamber of Commerce, but for smaller communities that may be a start.

I learned from his this past week, hopefully some of this will be helpful to you.