Do not adjust your set

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25 August 2010


Turn on: the QS advert sent a strong message to viewers

Posted by Neil Rose, Editor, Legal Futures

QualitySolicitors (QS) founder Craig Holt has been in an understandable lather over the past couple of days, providing his followers on Twitter with a near-hourly countdown to the screening of QS’s first ever television advert, shown at 8.40pm on ITV1 last night. Not for QS a cheesy advert on a dodgy satellite channel at a time when only the retired, ill and workshy lazing on their sofas are around to watch.

I have to say I was impressed – if you missed it, you can see it on the QS website here. I don’t say that because QS is a Legal Futures Associate, or even because it simply looked good. While I’m sure Lockings, Howlett Clarke and Burroughs Day were thrilled to see their names picked out for the advert, what I really liked was the message that firms only become (and presumably stay) QS members if they get the thumbs-up from their clients – ‘Chosen by you’ is the tagline.

The idea that it is the client who is ultimately in charge is a clever one because it subverts what I’m sure is most people’s expectation of their relationship with a solicitor and so makes QS an appealing option for those needing legal help. The way the firms are rebranded on screen to embrace the QS logo implies that these are practices that have bought into this and adopted a way of doing business that is consumer friendly.

I suspect that I am getting a bit overexcited by the advert simply because it is streets ahead of anything I can think of that came before from any other law firm or claims company. But then, given that to date advertising of legal services has generally been utterly woeful, this is to damn with faint praise.

But TV advertising, however slick and well thought-out, will only get QS so far. The website, for example, is slightly confusing in that when you search for QS lawyers in certain areas, different types of results are thrown up, reflecting that there are currently different levels of membership. I understand that this is to change over the coming months as more firms take on the QS brand.

But more importantly, now is the time for the firms in the network to live up to the promise and deliver their services in the more consumer-focused manner promised. There is clearly a lot at stake for them, but having chosen to subsume their brands into QS (even including their URLs in some cases), their commitment to the concept is unambiguous. Good luck to them.

Perhaps appropriately, the advert was shown during ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. QS and its member firms have got some of the way up the ladder, but there is still a distance to go before they hit the jackpot and the questions asked of them will only get tougher.



5 Responses to “Do not adjust your set”

  1. I really do feel that QS are to be congratulated on an advert which manages to avoid all of the usual legal symbols and stereotypes whilst still putting across a message which is comfortingly traditional. Its slight similarity to the Lloyds TSB adverts adds familiarity without in any way detracting from what is, for lawyers, a unique event.

    Well, that has raised the stakes on the high street – perhaps not before time!

  2. Duncan Finlyson on August 25th, 2010 at 9:22 am
  3. I’d love to see what their website Google Analytics report and call centre stats looked like for the 30 minute period either side of the ad? Did it have the spike in traffic they looking for?

    The ad’s good. Amanda Holden was just about recognisable but without “seeing” her I wonder if she added much “value” to the advert in terms of brand association compared to a (I assume) cheaper “voiceover artist”.

    I liked the ad, consistent with the presentation of the website, but as Neil observes the website has some “challenges”.

    They key will all be about the delivery of services by the member firms. National brands are perfect for services that “travel” i.e. restaurants. You go to a Pizza Express anywhere in the country and the service is the same. Legal services don’t “travel” in the same way do they? So if the model is based on cheaper national ads, supply chain savings etc, then does that limit it’s success?

    Also, the one question I’ve always had, but never seem answered in public is who “owns” the QualitySolicitors brand? Craig & his team or the member firms? The member firms build the brand and then in five years Tesco buy it. Who gets the exit dosh? Anyone know/prepared to say, the answer?

    Regs….David.

  4. David Gilroy on August 27th, 2010 at 10:35 am
  5. Have just the advert and seems that the current vogue for cgi large headed people in advertising continues apace. The Loyalty Law advert is in a similair vein. Not sure of the overall message given; there seems to be minimal information as to services available and seems more of a puff piece for the firms involved. Would question whether selection is due to chosing the best solicitors in the land as opposed to those solicitors who pay to join upto the scheme.

  6. Mike Massen on August 27th, 2010 at 4:00 pm
  7. Firstly, thanks to Neil for producing a very interesting article.

    As we prepare for the launch of our next group of branded firms, I’m extremely busy, but I just thought I’d post a very brief response to the comments.

    David – to answer your specific question – we had an unbelivable spike in traffic from 8.40pm onwards. The ad – which is focused on brand awareness more than direct response – exceeded our wildest expectations in terms of web traffic and also calls to our 24hr call centre.

    I don’t agree that national brands are limited at all to services that “travel.” Banks, opticians, travel agents – all things predominately used by people in their home town – are all dominated by national brands. Brands exist and succeed anywhere we need to make a choice – of which in the legal market there is too much choice between local law firms who invariably provide little means to differentiate themselves. Likewise the concept that the service has to be the “same” for a brand to succeed is a myth. The commonality can be limited to providing an excellent service – that doesn’t mean it has to be identikit. Even within a law firm, the service is very different from lawyer to lawyer as so much of legal services is personality driven. What we can have as a national brand are certain core values, client promises and innovations.

    To answer your final question – QualitySolicitors is a limited company. Member firms are not shareholders as this would conflict with our policy of removing firms who do not perform to an acceptable standard – judged by client feedback. It operates much like a franchise – firms “buy” an exclusive area in which they are the only firm who can operate under the branding. That franchise fee then funds the high profile marketing campaign. That is not unusual – almost all franchise type organisations operate in exactly the same way, such from Specsavers to Best Western hotels etc (albeit that those particular franchises are not ones I would directly compare QualitySolicitors to). Of course, the commercial agreement between QualitySolicitors and its members provides protection for the members against the scenario you mention. The firms have a degree of ownership in practice in so far as the licence for their area granted to them is irrevocable save for circumstances in which their service levels drop below an acceptable level. The reality of the way in which QS is structured and the nature of the agreement between branded firm and QS make the notion of “selling” the brand virtually impossible in any event.

    Mike – Whilst I’m sorry you’re not as impressed with the ad as Neil and others, you obviously can’t please all the people, all the time…! The advert has, however, I’m pleased to say been extremely well received generally and a CGI based ad has done extremely well for Lloyds-Tsb recently, for example. It helps distinguish from the typical, dreadful PI adverts people are used to and also helps make the service feel more friednly and approachable – in stark contrast to most people’s perception of legal services. Focus groups on which the ad was tested before airing understood the message very clearly and it received extremely high ratings. People will look for a QualitySolicitors firm having seen the ad.

    As for your slightly cynical speculation about the basis of choosing of our branded firms I can assure you that becoming a branded QualitySolicitors firm is an extremely difficult process. Our assessment process is rigorous including an exhaustive assessment of firm’s historic client feedback and client interviews. In most towns we are fortunate to have the luxury of a large number of firms vying to become the chosen firm in their location and we are therefore able to be highly selective in our choice. I don’t think anyone could sensibly try and argue that the likes of Burroughs Day, Stephensons, Morrish, Lockings, Howlett Clarke etc aren’t at least amongst the best firms in their respective locations.

    Anyway, as usual, having said I would be brief, I have been quite the opposite so I’ll cut things off there!

    Best wishes,

    Craig

  8. Craig Holt on September 1st, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  9. It will be interesting to see how much further referral sites seek to go than consumer satisfaction in demonstrating quality and value for money. Limitations on billing practices would be, I suspect, encouraged: sites will encourage and perhaps require more fee fixing. It will also be interesting to see if they go further down the quality measurement and assurance route. Peer review and model clients would be something which could obviously be attempted if the benefits to a brand of genuine quality were paramount.

    http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/should-we-just-put-the-consumer-in-charge/

  10. Richard Moorhead on September 2nd, 2010 at 8:22 am

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