Saturday, March 31, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
In an unsurprising decision, a Florida Bar committee has screened out a submitted TV commercial where the attorney, Steve Miller, promises the above exterminating metaphor to clients on the cheap. Carolyn Elefant here has the story (and links some ads) plus her interesting commentary as to why the rationale is a smokescreen: "Here, the bar's conclusion that the bar promises a result is untrue. In the ad, Miller says that by signing up for his service 'you're on your way to getting rid of that vermin you call a spouse,' but he doesn't promise that he will succeed. That's not a guarantee of a result in my view." Her prescription: "If Miller's ads are truly offensive -- and don't kid yourself, that's the only reason why the bar wants them eliminated -- then the market will decide their success." She advises solos against such an ad but mainly because it draws awful "clients from hell."
A prior decision Elefant links forbade using icons like pit bulls, snakes, and sharks for similar "deceptiveness" reasons. [Could any bar forbid her from using an animal icon, she noticeably does not ask, presumably after years of the same jokes.] For better marketing in Florida, I suggest using not a pit bull but rather a 60-second ad featuring the attorney talking almost inaudibly in front of the non-stop yipping and floor-jumping of Ollie, my mother-in-law's tiny Yorky, who conveniently lives in West Palm. All the director would have to do to guarantee a perfect performance is say Action. Or exist. I think prospective clients will get the message plus the lawyer and Ollie will inevitably star on YouTube. (Copyright 2007 Childress. All rights reserved. Childress also agent for Ollie. Picture is not Ollie, but a larger prototype.)
It is true, however, that the shark imagery is misleading if in fact Florida sharks are themselves now specifically targeting Florida lawyers.
Anyway, Virginia's Ben Glass (a blogger on legal marketing), in this comment after Carolyn's post, provides some other examples of the Florida Bar's targeting of "promising" ads which seem to guarantee even less than the vermin ad does. And he recommends Rodney Smolla's new book (Smolla is now Dean at Richmond) on lawyer ads and the First Amendment. Info on that book is below the fold.
West says about the Smolla book (and ordering information is here):
This treatise covers in depth the current "hot areas" of lawyer advertising including: submission requirements, use of testimonials and actors, provability requirements, court views on advertisement "dignity", approval requirements, content regulation, competing models of regulation, accident and disaster solicitation ("ambulance chasing") regulations, and societal considerations for regulation. The treatise covers every United States Supreme Court decision on the subject of lawyer advertising. Volume 2 contains the rules and regulations pertaining to lawyer advertising in every state. A comprehensive analysis of the competing models of lawyer advertising across the 50 states.
- Comparative analysis of the lawyer advertising models
- Complete analysis of the major lawyer advertising Supreme Court decisions
- The complete history and evolution of lawyer advertising as commercial speech
- A complete one volume compendium of state rules and regulations
- Highlights of the new New York state rules and regulations
- Analysis of the methods of regulating lawyer advertising and marketing