In Bizarre 2020, How Was Lawyer TV Advertising? See Results from Morgan and Morgan, Firmidable

Lawyer advertising on television is not like any other kind of marketing—as you probably agree. So in 2020, a year like no other, how has television advertising worked out for law firms?

A recent article on the news site Law.com posed that very question to John Morgan, founder of Morgan and Morgan and Nathan Chapman, president of Firmidable. Morgan and Morgan is a personal injury law firm reported to be the nation’s biggest-spending legal advertiser. Firmidable is a 30-year-old niche marketing agency with legal clients from coast to coast.

Morgan and Morgan is not a client of Firmidable. In fact, many of the agency’s clients compete against the firm in various cities.

You can read the full article at Law.com, but you will have to register for access to the site. This post will give you an overview of what these two legal marketing masterminds had to say.

2020 Was a Roller Coaster for Attorneys Who Advertise

When much of the United States shut down in the second quarter of this year, it was an unmistakably challenging time for personal injury law firms because there were simply fewer cars on the road. Fewer cars = fewer accidents = fewer cases. (Less carbon emissions, too, but that’s a subject for another post.)

Morgan estimates his firm took in 10,000 fewer cases than it normally would.

Chapman’s personal injury law firm clients also observed this dip in intakes. But for Firmidable’s legal clients, the decline was offset by increased demand at Social Security Disability law firms. “Social Security Disability cases were at historic highs during this same period,” Chapman recalls, “especially at the initial application level. Many thousands of people with chronic health issues were furloughed. They recognized they were likely never going back to work, so they decided to apply for disability benefits.”

By third quarter, states began to shed their lockdowns and personal injury cases also began to pick up for firms who had not abandoned their advertising programs.

“I doubled and tripled my advertising when the world opened back up,” Morgan said in the Law.com interview. “I stepped on the gas and went from 65 to 95. Businesses weren’t advertising, so there was a huge opportunity to renegotiate your rates. I spent more, but I got more—a lot more.”

A Time for Aggressive Negotiations by (Good) Legal Marketing Media Buyers

With so many advertising sectors off the air—such as tourism, casinos, restaurants and local retail—Morgan used the soft demand for advertising inventory as an opportunity to renegotiate his television rates. His willingness to even add dollars to his budget further helped him with negotiations.

Firmidable elected to take a slightly different, but also impactful, route. Its television media buyers had concerns that if they simply negotiated lower rates, once demand started to pick up, as it later did in the third quarter with dynamics like the election season heating up, spots would fail to air as stations favored advertisers paying higher rates.

So rather than focus on rates, the agency negotiated “bonus spots.” Bonus spots are supplemental, no-charge spots. These free spots ended up running in highly desirable time slots like The Tonight Show and Dancing with the Stars.

“We tabulated that for Q2, we came up just a hair under 30,000 bonus spots,” Chapman said in the Law.com article. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Contrasting Two Personal Injury Law Firms in 2020

In Chapman’s experience, he said, law firms that move boldly forward on advertising, rather than cutting back, saw success this year.

“I had two different firms that made two different decisions,” according to Chapman. “One added to their personal injury advertising—not because of COVID, they had already intended to—but their cases went up 25%. Another firm chose to pause midway through the year and their personal injury caseload took a hit. With them, we’ll be back on air for January.”

It’s A Virtual World, After All

Besides the shifting media buying strategies, there also was a rush in 2020—in both television and digital messaging—to assure potential clients that to see a lawyer, you don’t have to physically go see a lawyer.

Firms across the nation—and their legal marketers like the team at Firmidable—quickly alerted potential clients that they did not have to leave the house to meet an attorney. Consultations can be done by phone or videoconferencing, like Zoom.

Those public notices came in the form of new TV commercial graphics or website banner popups.

What will 2021 bring? Chapman laughs, “Hopefully, shots of vaccines and a big shot of normalcy. Law firms that pivoted and persevered this year should be proud. But it’ll be great when this is all just a memory.”

Firmidable has been a national expert in legal marketing for almost 30 years. It brings law firms customized, data-driven marketing strategies and services, including online and traditional media for a wide range of legal practices. From Maine to Hawaii, it has transformed the lives of attorneys—and their clients.

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About the Author: Doug Cardinale

Doug Cardinale is senior account executive at Firmidable.