Posted by Neil Rose, Editor, Legal Futures
So at last we got to see what private equity investment, Team Saatchi and a £15m advertising budget has bought QualitySolicitors (QS) – a TV advert for legal services the like of which I certainly haven’t seen before, a world away from the “Had an accident in the last three years?” genre. See it on YouTube here if you couldn’t face sitting through Dancing on Ice last night for the adverts.
‘For whatever life brings’ – the company’s new tagline – follows a slightly ephemeral blonde dubbed ‘QualitySolicitors Woman’ as she observes people going through a series of life events for which one needs legal services. Set to a beautiful rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Hard road to travel’ by up-and-coming singer Rachel K Collier, the extended 90-second slot deliberately had the subtle and quality feel of a John Lewis-type advert, only revealing the QS name at the end.
It was a bit corny but I liked it. The shared moment between the mourning woman and the expectant mother is particularly well played.
Well-known legal blogger and tweeter Jon Bloor made an interesting point, tweeting: “QS ad seems like good promotion for the profession, but no real message as to what is meant to differentiate QS firms?” It was an advert that the Law Society could or should have done, he suggested.
Arguably differentiation might not be that important given the many members of the public who don’t know where to go for legal advice and who therefore may be drawn to a brand that puts out slick adverts during Dancing on Ice.
No doubt the QS knockers will come out to play today (just how does someone walking through a city centre pass by a family moving into their new house, fellow pedants?), but to me the really interesting aspect of the advert is the effort to link legal services with the emotion of life moments. Several people on Twitter mentioned how it even brought tears to their eyes. “What is wrong with me? I used to have a heart of stone and now I’ve just sobbed at the QualitySolicitors advert,” said one.
As QS chief executive Craig Holt puts it in the accompanying ‘Making of’ video, the advert was about “creating an understanding that legal services aren’t really about forms and documents and black-letter law, but about life and emotions and people’s families, businesses”.
The problem is that for many people, forms and documents are exactly what legal services are about – if they do engender emotions, they are usually not positive ones, at least in anticipation of seeking legal advice (of course, many lawyers will leave their clients satisfied by the end). It may take more money than even QS has to change the perception of something that is usually described as a distress purchase into a positive, beneficial choice.
Accompanying the advert – the precursor to the full campaign kicking off in May, as we recently revealed – is QS’s new website. It’s uncluttered (almost too uncluttered, if possible, with not much depth, although I understand that not all the functionality is yet in place) and, once more unlike any law firm website I have seen, contains videos of real clients endorsing their local QS firm.
The site also has five prominent promises: direct lawyer contact, first consultation free, no hidden costs, same-day response and Saturday opening. None of these (except the last one) is remotely unusual but they are expressed clearly and in terms of offering something that ‘regular’ solicitors should do but don’t. That will wind a few (more) people up. Strangely there’s no mention of the QS Privilege card that I can see.
Proof of the pudding, of course, will be in the instructions once the main campaign gets under way. As ever, many eyes will be on QS. They have such a head start that you wonder how anyone else with similar national plans can catch them up, especially if Mr Holt reaches his target of being in 1,000 locations by the end of the year, with firms whose collective turnover would be £1bn.
But love them or hate them, that’s the fascinating thing about alternative business structures right now – something spectacular could be going through the SRA approval process as you read this. For whatever life brings, indeed.