How to create print ads that work -- Lesson One: Your mug is beautiful

When you get a magazine in the mail, what’s the first thing you do?

If you’re like most people, you don’t immediately start to read the magazine. Instead, you probably flip through and look at the pages. And what’s the first thing on a page you look at? The photos.

Especially if the photos are of fellow human beings. And if we recognize someone, we slam on the brakes and dig into to find out why our next door neighbor, or college classmate, or fellow parishioner has her picture in a magazine. We can't help it. We're hardwired this way.

This simple, indelible truth is often overlooked by print advertisers. Too many print advertisers run cold, sterile “image ads” that have not a trace of humanity in them. No people, no photos, no story, no point of view.

In legal circles, large firms are notorious for creating people-less “image ads.” These ads are loaded with visual clichés associated with the law – Doric columns, courthouse steps, gavels, scales of justice, law books, or better yet, an open law book with a pair of reading glasses positioned just so upon the pages. But no actual lawyers.

Among more progressive large firms, a memo was apparently circulated at one time that if you want to shake up your ad, it’s okay to feature animals – lions, tigers, bears, and even elephants, are okay, but for  god’s sake, keep the damn lawyers out of the ad!

The result. The completely forgettable ad. The airball of advertising. I’ll bet these image ads produce nothing but a deafening silence for a response.

If you’re a small or mid-size law firm that doesn’t have a big marketing department, or ad agency on retainer, and you want to get your money’s worth for your print ad, put your picture in the ad.

Why? Because anyone who knows you – colleagues, judges, opposing counsel, clients, past clients, potential clients – will stop and notice the ad. At that point you’ve already achieved what scores of print ads fail to accomplish – NOTICE and RECALL, the golden words of advertising.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not buff or beautiful. Remember: as a lawyer, you are the product. You are the brand. You need to get out there. 

Your photo will reach out and grab the reader in way that words cannot. This is not a sophisticated concept. It’s not fancy. It’s not creative or award-winning. But it works!

In Super Lawyers, the impact of a photo goes a big step further: Notice and recall in the context of Super Lawyers equates to, “I noticed you were in Super Lawyers. You’re among the five percent they chose. That must mean you’re considered by others to be a pretty darn good lawyer.”

That’s a great message to get out there and it didn’t take a word of copy to communicate. In print advertising, the old saying is especially true: A picture – especially your picture -- is worth a thousand words.