by Richard Prior
It’s not always a good idea to stand out from the rest of the herd. When the tumbrels are being loaded for the guillotine comes to mind.
But if you’re an attorney in a town where attorneys spring up like Spanish moss, you don’t want to blend in. That’s where advertising comes in.
Whether attorneys should advertise at all won’t be resolved soon. But a growing number of practitioners understand that communities have gone way past the day when word of mouth or a business card were the only permissible “ads.” The argument is the public deserves to know what services are available and that billboards, newspapers, magazines, television and radio provide that service.
So does the phone book.
No longer are listings restricted to names, numbers and the occasional thumbnail, black-and-white photo. The latest edition of “The Real Yellow Pages” distributed by BellSouth contains 110 colorful pages of attorney listings in half pages, full pages and facing pages.
One firm has taken the whole back page; another is featured on the spine. A refrigerator magnet — or “tip-on,” in BellSouth parlance — is adhered to the front.
“Attorneys are one of the businesses that has found the most benefit out of advertising on the back and front covers and the spines,” said Ken Ray, vice president of marketing for BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corp. “Those are our premium advertising positions, and it helps their visibility in the marketplace.”
Listings in the Yellow Pages are quite often used to complement information the public gleans from other media, he said.
“For instance, most people are not going to write down the name and number from a television ad,” said Ray, from his Atlanta office. “They’ll write down the name, then go to the Yellow Pages — particularly if the commercial says, ‘See our ad on the back page of The Real Yellow Pages from BellSouth.’ ”
In addition to the display ad found under the Attorneys heading, Brown Terrell Hogan also has a tabbed double-sided color page that is printed on heavy stock paper.
“You can see that the tab has sort of a carryback to the television ad,” said Wayne Hogan. “It has pieces connected to the ad.”
Trying to gauge the effectiveness of billboard, television or Yellow Pages ads, the firm often asks potential clients why they chose Brown Terrell Hogan.
“Sometimes, people will call as a result of the tab; sometimes it’s the commercial; sometimes it’s a combination of both plus our reputation,” said Hogan. “When someone picks up the Yellow Pages, this is a good opportunity for them to find that tab, which has information about us as well as space to put important telephone numbers.”
Using the Yellow Pages is an efficient way for firms to plant their names in the mind of the public, said Ray. BellSouth puts out about 63 million copies of The Real Yellow Pages in the nine states it services. Just over 700,000 volumes are distributed in Jacksonville during the initial run. Additional volumes are distributed to new residents who sign up for phone service.
And the volumes hang around for a year, not the 30 seconds it takes to air a commercial.
The reason why a firm — or any other business — would go to the extra expense of page tabs, full-page color ads and refrigerator magnets is simple. The payback can be impressive.
According to research data, Ray said, businesses will see a $14 return for every $1 spent on display advertising in The Real Yellow Pages.
But, because of the nature of their work, attorneys “as a group” would see a “much higher” return, he added.
“The reason you see attorneys in some of the high-visibility places (in the Yellow Pages) is because they get a pretty significant return on their investment,” said Ray.
“Over the course of a year, one favorable judgment pays for all their advertising.”