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Lawyer banner ads on Internet hated by public?

September 9, 2004

Lawyers buy banner ads from FindLaw,, yellow page companies with Internet directories and probably anyone else who has a strong enough sales force. But are these ads effective and is it possible the public will dislike this form of lawyer advertising as much as they dislike offline lawyer advertising?

Adrants reports a study just out by the Ponemon Institute found the majority of people are annoyed by banner ads and folks who respond to banner ads are in the minority. Lawyers asked to make buys of such banners may be wise to use their Internet marketing budget elsewhere. Especially if they give a darn about the reputation of our legal profession.

Though each finding is not relevant to lawyer Internet advertising, here’s the highlights of the study:

  • 80 percent find pop ups annoying.
  • 60 percent dislike spam (the other 40 percent must have thought it was something you ate).
  • 60 percent are always annoyed by banners.
  • While ads are hated, 31 percent respond to ads.
  • 7 percent made a purchase from a banner.
  • 65 percent won’t pay for ad blocking services.
  • 52 percent are more likely to respond if ad is relevant.
  • 66 percent state relevant banner ads are less annoying.
  • 45 percent will volunteer personal info in return for more targeted ads.
  • 55 percent would respond to an ad that was targeted but was not based on the requirement of providing personal info.
  • 31 percent would trust an advertiser more if they had a solid privacy statement backed by a third party such as TRUSTe or BBB.

I confess, I dislike most lawyer ads. Not because lawyers should not advertise but because most of the ads are so gosh darn tasteless. Banner Ads on the Internet are usually a link to a law firm Web site singing the accolades of the law firm, as opposed to providing what the majority of folks are looking for – down to earth practical information on the legal situation they face.

In addition I care about the image of my profession. I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a kid and practiced law for 17 years before realizing I could help more people via the Internet. It’s well documented by the recent ABA Litigation Committee Study the public believes lawyers can improve their image if lawyers change the way they advertise.

But here we go again, advertising in a way the public finds distasteful – buying banner ads on the Internet. Why?

  • We’re lazy. It’s easy to pay to ‘market’ yourself without having to spend any actual time.
  • Fear. Afraid we’ll lose out to lawyer down the street. How many of us have had yellow pages sales people say if you do not keep that position in the book, you’ll loose it to someone else and never get it back?
  • Window of hope. 7% of people did say they would purchase via a banner.
  • Salespeople. FindLaw, and the yellow pages folks have some talented and highly motivated sales people. A significant number of lawyers not having the time to examine marketing alternatives just go with the point of least resistance – buy from someone with a brand that stays after you.
  • We’re sheep. Lawyers tend to follow all the others. They see other lawyers buying Internet ads and they just follow along.
  • Confusion. Lawyers think Internet marketing is confusing. Whether its unknown technology, sales people with statistics or whatever, lawyers just say I do not have time to understand it all so I just went with this.

I understand the companies selling lawyer banner ads will find solace in the fact people are less likely to find a banner ad annoying if the ad is relevant or targeted to a segment looking for information. But I would hope these companies spend some of their time and money improving the methods people run a search on their directories when selecting a lawyer and look for marketing methods that will improve the image of the legal profession.

Lawyers ought to take a little control of their marketing affairs. It’s not all that complicated. You can afford to spend a little of your own time as opposed to just throwing money after something of questionable taste you don’t know will work – your reputation is on the line.

And give some thought to whether the marketing you are doing is tasteful, honorable, pleasing to the public and is improving the image of our profession. Sure you may only be practicing for 20 to 30 years and ‘land retirement with that one big case’ but the legal system is one of the pillars on which this country rests and lawyers play a key role in preserving the public’s faith in it.

Let me know what you think.

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