Larry Bodine is a law firm marketing consultant, whose blog I read. In the most recent posting, he opines that an ad from Holland & Knight is the best professional firm ad ever. Take a look: http://pm.typepad.com/professional_marketing_bl/2005/11/best_firm_ad_ev.html
Unfortunately, he's dead wrong.This ad is not the best, not by a long shot. I think Larry is missing three points.
I spent a few years creating ads for a living. The thing most people who haven't experienced this particular blend of heaven and hell don't realize is that nobody will even see an ad unless you give them a reason to. You must get their attention, which you will have for about three seconds. People flip through magazines at the speed of light. They are trained not to see ads, and they usually don't. This is especially true of attorneys, and corporate counsel, who are very pressed for time, always. I have shown them a dozen pages of ads in legal publications that they didn't even realize were there. They literally looked right at them, and didn't see them. They certainly won't see this one. It's a photograph of a white male in a suit, white shirt and red tie. It is an absolutely generic photo -- it could be stock. Even the layout is generic. There is nothing at all to capture anyone's attention. Nobody will even see this ad.
If someone does stop and look at an ad, you have an instant to make your point in a compelling, immediate way. The brutally difficult thing about creating ads is compressing a whole complex positioning strategy down into one powerful concept, which is understood in a glance, like a pretty girl smiling at you across a room. The ad's headline and the graphics have to convey this -- this is why art directors and copywriters often try to kill one another -- it's very demanding. This ad contains several points, which are sort of jumbled together, in very generic language. By contrast, think of the classic Ogilvy and Mather ad extolling Great Britain as a vacation destination. The ad features a beautiful photo of Westminster Abbey, and the headline "Tread Softly Past the Long, Long Sleep of Kings." Brilliant -- in one sentence, there's an overpowering image of history, pageantry and romance. This ad does not pack anything like the same punch. The copy could be used for virtually any client and any law firm. Or accounting firm. Or consultant. There isn't one idea that's memorable, and resonant here, and for that reason also, this isn't The World's Greatest Ad.
Third and Final Point
Why would anyone care what Neiman Marcus's CEO thinks? Clients, rightfully so, are interested only in how a firm can help them with their issues, which are almost certainly very different from Neiman's. The CEO of Neiman-Marcus loves Holland & Knight. He thinks they're swell. What's that got to do with the price of eggs? Granted, he's a Major Dude and all, but this is basically a celebrity endorsement, which is meaningless unless the celebrity's personal brand reinforces the product. The CEO of Neiman Marcus has no personal brand, unlike, say, Richard Branson, and Neiman Marcus itself is a department store. Does Holland & Knight want to be known as the department store of law firms? Didn't think so.
I've gone on longer than I meant to. Reasonable minds can disagree, and I have never even met Larry Bodine -- I think I'd like him if I did. But I totally disagree with his assessment of this ad. And, in the spirit of goose, gander and sauce, I now present what I think is the best law firm ad ever. It ran recently, was for Winston & Strawn, and was also a testimonial. Except it was a simple blue background, with one line in large type, that read "Humble, but lethal." Below it was an attribution -- an American Lawyer article about the country's best litigation departments.
Simple, memorable, and boiled down to three words. The firm's litigators kill opposing counsel, but they're not arrogant -- they're humble. I love that ad. I think it's better.
One of the things I battle constantly is the reluctance of professionals, especially lawyers, to market themselves. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of them is the fear of rejection. Godin has done a really nice job of setting that concept out in a beautiful little metaphor. There's the Local Max, which is the best you can do with your current operation -- current principals, current marketing strategy, current ideas. Where you want to get is the Big Max -- where your business is of an entirely different size and nature. The Big Leagues. Unfortunately, to get to the Big Max, you've got to suffer through a phase where things get worse before they get better. The curve slopes down before it slopes up. This is the Land of Rejection, Doubt, and Fear. Godin explains it all for you. Here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/11/understanding_l.html