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5 questions for John Morgan on law firm’s jingle contest

With a $100,000 prize, submissions poured in.
John Morgan, head of Morgan & Morgan, shown in his offices in downtown Orlando. His career started with the Yellow Pages and billboards in the early ‘80s. Now his firm is offering $100,000 to the winner of an advertising jingle contest.
John Morgan, head of Morgan & Morgan, shown in his offices in downtown Orlando. His career started with the Yellow Pages and billboards in the early ‘80s. Now his firm is offering $100,000 to the winner of an advertising jingle contest.
Published Oct. 21
Updated Oct. 22

In addition to running television ads and innuendo-laden billboards for Morgan & Morgan, America’s largest personal injury law firm is auditioning jingle writers, offering a $100,000 payday for the snappiest ditty.

The big check is worth every cent, said John Morgan, the lawyer who pioneered law firm advertisements ranging from the Yellow Pages to TikTok videos.

Morgan & Morgan has more than 700 attorneys in offices across 49 states. We caught up with him while he was at the firm’s Brooklyn office, where he was being filmed as he narrowed down the jingle contest winners to the top five. The winner will be named by the end of the month.

Related: Law firms battle over whether bigger is better

The success of the contest — Morgan said there was a “tsunami” of entries — has inspired him to do more crowd-sourcing contests in the future.

Morgan talked about the upper crust “white-shoe law firms” cringing at his advertisements. The jingle contest is another sign that he continues to smash protocols in that department.

What prompted you to have a jingle contest?

I knew it would get a lot of engagement in social media. The clicks and likes and views have more than paid for it. We’ve had millions and millions and millions and millions of views. The $100,000 that we are going to pay will have paid for itself 10 or 20 times over in eyeballs.

Jingles can be tricky. The “Kars4Kids” jingle was used as a joke in the TV show The Good Place as a torture device. Is this going to be an ear worm?

This will be something you want to sing along to and hard to get out of your head. I know who the winner is. A lot of them did videos and their bedrooms were like music studios. The visual on the winner was off the charts. Think Morgan & Morgan meets Blair Witch. It’s not commercial grade but it’s good enough that you go, “Wow.”

Did they have a class in law school about how to select an advertising jingle for your law firm?

I wasn’t in the top 10 percent of my law school. I was the one looking out the window dreaming and scheming. I think it’s more innate. White-shoe law firms frown on advertising but they have something called billable time. I call billable time grand theft. When they overbill they call it padding, creative billing or whatever. I call it stealing. These white-shoe law firms have requirements that people bill 2,800 to 3,000 hours a year, which is physically impossible. When we don’t win we don’t get paid. So they look down on the jingle, but I look down on the billable time. We’re even.

Morgan & Morgan's "Size Matters" billboard, left, seen along U.S. 19. A few miles down the highway, the Berlin Law Firm put up an ad in response that said, "Better is better."
Morgan & Morgan's "Size Matters" billboard, left, seen along U.S. 19. A few miles down the highway, the Berlin Law Firm put up an ad in response that said, "Better is better." [ CHRIS URSO, BOYZELL HOSEY | Chris Urso and Boyzell Hosey | Times ]

What did you think of the commentary about the phallic-humored “bigger is better” billboards?

My PR people always fall apart because they think everything is a hit piece, and I don’t. We all know what is going on here. The increase in business with the “size matters” campaign is dramatic.

I was looking at GEICO, Progressive, Farmers, Allstate. They all have very funny ads. Insurance is a very serious business. Can I try to be funny and be serious at the same time? There are some pros who are a lot smarter than me who have decided that being funny can be as effective or more effective than being a funeral director. So that’s why I did it. The leaf blower commercial, the airline seats commercial. We took a chance. We had a lot of fundamentalist Christians calling us about size matters and I just said, “Please get your head out of the gutter.”

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A guy that started in the Yellow Pages is now on TikTok. That’s an amazing arc. What has been your strategy?

Some people don’t evolve. The people who had stage coaches didn’t evolve. But Gucci, who made saddles, did evolve. They made purses. The saddle is the old way and TikTok is the new way.

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Morgan & Morgan is the nation’s largest personal injury law firm.