There was a story awhile ago about some lawyers using geo-targeting technology to target ads to people within hospitals: Digital Ambulance Chasers? Law Firms Send Ads To Patients’ Phones Inside ERs.

Patients sitting in emergency rooms, at chiropractors’ offices and at pain clinics in the Philadelphia area may start noticing on their phones the kind of messages typically seen along highway billboards and public transit: personal injury law firms looking for business by casting mobile online ads at patients.

The potentially creepy part? They’re only getting fed the ad because somebody knows they are in an emergency room.

The technology behind the ads, known as geofencing, or placing a digital perimeter around a specific location, has been deployed by retailers for years to offer coupons and special offers to customers as they shop. Bringing it into health care spaces, however, is raising alarm among privacy experts.

It’s a interesting, new use of technology. Which means lawyers are likely going to be against it because reasons. I took to the Twitters and asked folks how they felt about it.

Unsurprisingly, “No” won out. Lawyers generally don’t like change. But in the comment thread underneath the poll, you’ll see people asking “How is this any different from buying a billboard outside of the hospital?” Which is a fair question. If it’s okay for a lawyer to but a billboard to target folks near a hospital, why can’t lawyers also buy digital ad space on your phone near a hospital?

  • Is the medium of delivery that different?
  • If a billboard near a hospital doesn’t count as solicitation, why should a digital ad?
  • Is it because it happens on their “personal” device?

The digital ad is still not directly soliciting an injured individual. The ad is geo-targeted, meaning the same ad is being served to doctors, nurses, and janitors as well. Is there something so transformative in the methodology of the delivery of the advertising to make it unethical? I don’t think so. But we’ll see what State bars have to say.

Internet Trends – Mobile, Digital Growth

Here’s the thing with advertising – it’s not going away anytime soon. What it is doing, far more rapidly than the legal industry, is evolving and adapting to consumer habits.

One of the best ways to to see how this is happening is to look at Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report. She’s been releasing them for some time time now and it’s always worth reviewing if you’re curious as to emerging trends in computing and the Internet.

People, especially younger people, live on their phones. The amount of time spent on computers, and mobile devices specifically continues to grow. Why would lawyers trying to reach these consumers not advertise there? It’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

Especially when 60% of consumer purchases are digital. Physical, in-store purchases are dying. Mobile purchases and payments are only continuing to grow. Buying products is not the same as buying legal services, but consumers want to buy where it is the easiest to purchase. Don’t ask you customers to come to you, you go to your customers.

And perhaps most tellingly, is the above graphic showing that time is decreasing on all other forms of media except mobile, yet ad spend hasn’t yet caught up with it.

Advertising chases attention. Wherever people are paying attention, ad dollars are going to chase after it. It’s no different for lawyers who are wanting to advertise their services.

Hopefully State Bars don’t mess this up with some inane regulatory opinion that geo-targeting legal advertisements are unethical. I’d really like to see how they contort themselves into that position. But it’s the legal industry, so you never know.

Bonus Trend – Subscription Services

Aside, as I was reading through the report, another growing trend was the growth in subscriber models v. purchasing specific good or services. Netflix, Spotify, etc.

Of the nine examples that KP chose to use, do you see one familiar to the legal industry?

16% Y/Y growth and they just announced $500 million in additional investment into the company.

You think LegalZoom cares about being limited by advertising rules?


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