Traditional lawyer advertising may be branching out in very nontraditional ways. The Buffalo-based personal injury firm of Cellino & Barnes is known for its very extensive advertising campaign in western New York, with billboards and TV commercials galore (as well as ethics troubles, Matter of Cellino).
But in trying to make inroads downstate, they’ve invaded one of the local hockey arenas: The Nassau Coliseum. And they’ve done it by sponsoring a welcome home message for an Iraqi war veteran, not the type of advertising NY metro area residents are accustomed to, since we usually see subway ads, radio and TV.
My Nassau County Bureau Chief, a personal injury guy, reported to me last week to me that he saw this at a recent Islanders game:
Last night at the Islander game — best personal injury lawyer advertising I’ve ever seen. Between the second and third period. Flashed on the screen is “Home from Iraq.” White army style jagged edge lettering with a couple of army stripes on a military green background. Announcer announces back from Iraq is the American hero. The soldier, at the game, is flashed on the screen and waves to the crowd. The screen pans back to the Home from Iraq lettering and in smaller letters in the lower right hand corner is “Cellino & Barnes.”
Was the advertisement effective? Well, this was the response:
This got a bigger round of applause than the Islanders on their way to their fourth straight win of the season. Those guys know what they’re doing.
I have mixed thoughts on this. We start with the premise that the vast majority of ads for personal injury attorneys suck, and consist of “If you or someone you know has been injured…” types of blather. It’s damaging to the profession and damaging to the clients, a fact that can only be appreciated when picking a jury and watching eyes roll when you tell them it’s a personal injury case. So any ad that doesn’t come within that wretched format is, by definition, a better ad. The bar for quality is set very low.
From there you move on to the issue of whether this is a cynical exploitation of our troops. But this type of tribute doesn’t appear to be any different in concept from the Super Bowl ads run by Anheuser Busch in 2002 with Clydesdales walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and going down on one knee before the skyline of New York, or its 2005 ad of troops moving through the airport to the applause of bystanders.
On the whole, even with the cynicism in my mind regarding exploitation, I’d have to say that this is effective advertising. It doesn’t say anything about the skills of the attorneys, of course, but nor do the Anheuser Busch ads tell you what Bud tastes like.
Isn’t this the same firm that had to change their name to The Barnes Firm when Mr. Cellino had been suspended to practice?
Yes. And when Cellino returned from suspension, the firm name reverted.