The winner for 2013’s WORST law firm marketing.

The winner for 2013’s WORST law firm marketing.

I still think the Law Society’s “Which of these men do you think would be best at rape?” ad is the worst, most-offensive campaign in the 300-year history of legal industry marketing.

But today, in 2013, I think we may have a tie. 

Courtesy of our friends at Above the Law, we have a promotional video purportedly running by Alabama personal injury law firm McCutcheon & Hamner.  Although their website and Facebook page  seem quite typical, for some unfathomable reason they apparently went completely cuckoo with video, buying an astonishingly offensive ad from a production company that seems to specialize in juvenile, over-the-top, green-screen awfulness.

I simply don’t know what to say about this video.  What could they possibly have been thinking?  Take a look at the screen shot below – then realize that the video is even worse.  [NOTE: Read to the bottom for recent updates and the law firm’s response. The whole story remains murky.] 

Here’s a free marketing tip for professional-services firms:

Avoid marketing that insists viewers “pick the wad out of [their] panties.”

I understand, comedy is hard. Senses of humor vary.  We can have a legitimate debate re the value of politically correctness. But c’mon, this is 2013; some things are freakin’ obvious.  (We’re already planning to use video of this as an “Ethical or Not?” example in some upcoming CLE presentations.

Click here to watch the terrible, horrible no good, very racist video. 

The video’s producers calls it “intentionally Cheesy B Rate” and “satire comedy.” Effective offensive satire requires nuance, making the audience both laugh and squirm.  I enjoy small doses of Andrew Dice Clay and Lisa Lampanelli.  George Carlin was one of my all-time favorites.  But this is just plain racist.

This can’t be real, can it?  No one could possibly miss the mark this badly. The backlash would be enormous.

If this is real, the law firm could be run out of business.  If it’s a spoof, I wouldn’t want to be the production company. there will be Hell to pay.

The video’s producer states that “out of respect to the Attorney Firm,” they  “disabled the comment threadat the request of McCutheon & Hamner” [sic]. The rest of the writing is equally poor, almost like it’s written in someone’s second language. Yeah, I can see why they wouldn’t want any comments.

Feel free to post your own comments below.

The images are copyrighted Definitive Television.  Trust me, this is NOT a Fishman Marketing product. 

UPDATE:

According to the firm’s Facebook page, they were hacked and are now disclaiming all knowledge of, and credit for, the offensive video.  Their phrasing is somewhat curious though, “Our firm did not approve the latest advertising commercial.”

If I were wearing my lawyer hat, I’d want to know why they added the word “latest.”  It makes me wonder whether there was a previous version of the “advertising commercial” that they had approved:

Monday, December 2, 2013 UPDATE

The firm’s still denying that it’s them, and I hope that it isn’t.  See the discussion at Above the Law. 

However, something still smells fishy.

1. The firm’s comparatively weak public response still suggests to me that it’s more likely something like an internal attempt at a bad joke — that was later made public by the proud production company without the firm’s authorization.  I’ve helped law firms respond to many serious PR crises, and if the lawyers were entirely innocent I think they’d be denying things more publicly and vehemently. At least that’s one man’s opinion.

2. McCutcheon & Hamner’s receptionist told a friend of mine who called them that this might be an attempt by someone at Definitive Television or elsewhere who holds a grudge against the firm.  Personally, I doubt it – using this video as a reprisal against a law firm would seem to indicate a pretty sophisticated understanding of PR and viral marketing, which this dopey DT guy wouldn’t seem to possess.

Also, he seems to think his frat-boy videos are hilarious, not punishment.

3. The DT guy must have the name and email or phone info of the person who hired him, and he’s probably been paid by check or credit card. If the firm really wanted to squeeze this putz for his customer, the threat of a major lawsuit should have persuaded him to buckle in under 10 seconds. 

It still feels like there’s more to this unfortunate story that hasn’t come out yet.

I could be wrong, but I suspect the firm knows more than it’s saying.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 UPDATE

 Here’s the latest denial from the McCutcheon firm’s Facebook page:
McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. DID NOT hire Definitive Television or Jim DeBerry. McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. DID NOT know Definitive Television or Jim DeBerry even existed before being made aware of this video. McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. DID NOT approve of the video in question, in any form or at any time. We do not know who or why someone took it upon themselves to make this video and advertise it on YouTube. Whether the video was made with the intent to injure our firm, our business, or our families, is irrelevant. We are terribly embarrassed that this has happened. We sincerely apologize to all those who may have been offended by this video. We have asked Mr. DeBerry, Definitive Television, YouTube, and Google to remove the video, and so far it has been refused. We have been told that because McCutcheon & Hamner did not pay for the videos production, we do not own the content, and, therefore, cannot have the video removed. Google’s legal department has stated that it will not remove the video pursuant to the Communications Decency Act. We will continue our efforts to have this video removed. Once again, we extend our sincerest apologies to those who have been offended by this video. [emphasis original] Joel R. Hamner 

FINALLY, a simple, definitive denial! 

I wish they’d have said this at the very beginning, instead of those “non-denial denials” that smelled like they were hiding something, and increased the intrigue and media attention.

The PR message here is that if they had said something this clear on Day One, it could well have shortened the lifespan and unfortunate impact of this saga. 

The firm really threw down the gauntlet (so they’d better not be lying…). With this unequivocal denial we have to give McCutcheon the benefit of the doubt, that the firm’s partners did not sanction this.  But SOMEONE apparently motivated or initiated the production of this offensive video.  But who?

The ball would now seem to be in DT’s court to rebut this strong denial.

 

 

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