There are some definite advantages to billboard advertising, but also, a lot of risks. Firms are advised to weigh the pros and cons carefully, because this definitely is not a strategy that will benefit most law firms. Some of the pitfalls of billboard advertising are explored in the popular television program, “Better Call Saul.” Lawyers (like Saul Goodman) run the risk of getting a reputation as a “billboard lawyer” who tries to settle every case, whether it is to his client’s advantage or not. In short, a gimmicky billboard can reflect adversely on one’s lawyering abilities.
The flip side of this is that a tasteful, easy to read billboard in a prime location can help your firm catapault to “household name” status. Billboard advertising is referred to as “interruption advertising.” Simply put, people have no choice but to look at your ad while driving down the road, or sitting on the bus. For this reason, the billboard is probably the only conventional advertising method to survive the rise of social media. Newspaper advertising is all but dead in the wake of the Internet. And streaming services have essentially killed traditional commercial advertising. But people still have to leave the house, and those billboards they see cannot be unseen.
Unlike online advertising, once you put a billboard up, you do not have the option to alter it for at least several months. So it is important that you get it right the first time. Hire a professional to ensure that your font is easy to read from where people have visual access to it.
One drawback of billboards is that it is impossible to track whether you are getting a good ROI. How will you know a client called you because of your billboard, unless you ask them and they tell you? One thing you can do is use a dedicated tracking number, so you can get an actual count of how many people called you from the billboard ad. However, you then run the risk of diluting your brand recognition. (Not to mention the risk of causing an accident as potential clients distractedly jot down your phone number while driving… Not all billboards are conveniently placed at stop signs.)
It is also important to ensure, as with any advertising, that your ad complies with your state’s ethical rules. In Houston, Texas, one DWI lawyer put up a sign in an area notorious for a high rate of drunk driving arrests. The sign said “DON’T BLOW” (meaning don’t take a breathalyzer test). The billboard got a lot of media attention, and people considered it to be bad legal advice, since drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer are subject to an automatic three month license suspension in Texas. Despite these factors, the ad was approved by the state disciplinary committee.
To sum things up, if you decide to go the billboard route, make sure that your ad is easy to read and tasteful. And remember that a billboard will just get your foot in the door with clients–this kind of legal advertising is really best for brand recognition and retention. It is essential that you maintain a stand out website that features high quality content, or you won’t see conversion.