Chasing The Law: Legal Services, Radio’s Untapped $1.5B Ad Category.


What’s a $1.5 billion ad category virtually untouched by local radio? Answer: legal services. During this week’s Radio Advertising Bureau webinar “Radio Works for Lawyers,” veteran radio manager Phil Zachary explained how the Saga Communications cluster he manages in Portland, ME went from zero to $150,000 in annual revenue from the category by “chasing the law.”


Specifically, Zachary and his team targeted personal injury lawyers. “There is a ton of money in that category,” he told webinar attendees. But radio currently gets only about 10% of the category with most of the rest going to local television. And TV runs the ads during its weakest daypart – daytime, which happens to be radio’s strongest time period. Plus TV ads for PI attorneys all tend to look and sound the same, which creates an opening to introduce fresh creative alternatives to wrestle a portion of budgets away from TV.


With some categories half the battle is identifying who the decision-maker is. This isn’t one of them. Most personal injury attorneys give their name and contact info right in their ads. Another plus: PI lawyers are compensated on a percentage of the settlement money they get for the victim. That means they need to have a consistent funnel of credible cases rolling in, Zachary said. “Most everyone hopes they’ll never have the need for a personal injury lawyer. This is not a planned purchase,” he said. “So for these new clients to stay in the funnel, these firms need to advertise consistently because we never know when an accident will strike.”


Zachary walked RAB members though his plan of attack, which involved three distinct phases.


Plot The Pursuit


To keep customers walking through the door, personal injury lawyers need high reach and frequency campaigns. While TV delivers frequency it’s no secret that it’s reach is rapidly dwindling while radio’s cume remains robust. This, Zachary said, should be part of your pitch. And while over-the-top TV is the hottest ad channel right now, it’s complicated, expensive and largely under-measured, leaving advertisers with more uncertainty, Zachary said. This makes radio “look like comfort food – very simple and easy to buy, and very cost efficient.”


Zachary outlined three main points of attack:


  1. Stress the dominance and durability of radio over TV, particularly in daytime prime, where radio dominates reach

  2. Demonstrate additional reach using multiple radio formats with various deliveries of demographics and psychographics

  3. Emphasize frequency through punchy, short duration messages designed to create an equity position in the consumer’s mind.


The Chase


  1. Assess the field and try to nail down one firm with the hope that others may follow. Use Media Monitors or another service or just monitor the market to identify the biggest PI advertisers.

  2. Present something fresh with punchy high impact creative to differentiate your approach from the pablum that passes for legal creative on TV. Saga pitched two short-duration spec spots – one less bombastic than the norm with an attorney who was empathetic, compassionate and not a chest thumper. The second was a series of 10-second spots that were less preachy, a bit snarky but memorable.

  3. Hit the air with blunt force. Saga pulled out all its guns, starting with its biggest personalities in morning drive and then spread the campaign to all dayparts.


The Outcome


Within 30 days of the first campaign hitting the air, Zachary said they received a call from the largest PI firm in Maine and ended up getting 20% of their TV budget. Two firms now advertise with the cluster 52 weeks a year with a combined annual investment level of $150,000.


Don’t Forget The Law


Brad Deutsch, Managing Director at the Foster Garvey law firm, appeared on the webinar with important legal safeguards. While the FCC doesn’t have any regulations about advertising from lawyers, attorneys are regulated by each state they practice in and the laws vary from state to state. To remain in compliance Deutsch offered four general suggestions: no paid endorsement ads for lawyers – they’re illegal. Lawyers can’t make solicitations to a group of people known to have a specific need. Deutsch used family members of victims of the building collapse in Florida as an example. Instead keep the message more generic: “Have you been injured? Give us a call.” Be careful about ads that claim a lawyer specializes in a certain type of law, unless they have been certified as a specialist. Finally, ask the lawyer to do an analysis of the spot before it airs and give a certification that the ad is compliant.

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