My fave underseen story of 2011: Lawyers bombard local TV with commercials
For many years here in the Tampa Bay area, there was mostly a specific cadre of lawyers who resorted to the time-honored -- and often lampooned -- tactic of soliciting clients through TV ads.
Beltz and Ruth. Catania and Catania. Morgan & Morgan. The names were easy to remember, because their ads seemed to be ubiquitous and the same -- some stiff standing in front of a bunch of fake law books talking about how they can be more attentive or better at outfoxing insurance companies than the other guys in personal injury cases.
But in recent years, something has changed.
Look across the dial and you'll see more lawyers in advertisements, from more specialties than before. Attorneys who specialize in tax law or foreclosures have commercials sandwiched next to the personal injury guys.
Former local TV guys such as ex-WTVT-Ch. 13 consumer lawyer Eric Seidel have added media services to their law practices. And that sense from many years ago that only ambulance chasing barristers might resort to television is long gone.
I wrote a story for the St. Petersburg Times on this trend, published the day after Thanksgiving. But because I was on vacation, I never put it online. Until now. Click here to check it out.
I learned that some leading attorneys spend six-figure sums each month on an array of advertising. They're pushing against tightly restrictive rules from the Florida Bar, which has seen the amount of ads submitted for approval shoot up by 85 percent in recent years.
And I learned Orlando attorney John Morgan -- Morgan & Morgan founder and guru of lawyer advertising -- doesn't think much of one kind of advertising: newspapers.
"Y'all are the dance band on the Titanic," he told me during an interview. Ouch.
See some of the story below:
Sit in front of a bunch of fake law books. Talk about what you can do for a viewer's personal injury case. Blah, blah, blah.
Brad Culpepper acknowledges that at first he and partner Brett Kurland had the same kind of TV ad as every other lawyer.
Then the pair thought a bit about what they liked to see on television: the cool-looking, stop-motion ads for TNT shows; the Detroit-set Chrysler commercial with Eminem's Lose Yourself percolating in the background; kinetic Quentin Tarantino movies such as Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs.
Out came one of the most distinctive local TV lawyer ads in recent memory, featuring Culpepper and Kurland striding through the video to the syncopated groove of "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," the song that sets up the coolest fight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
They looked more like characters from a Mission: Impossible movie than lawyers.
And in a way, that was the point. (Click here for the rest of the story.)