While marketing may not be the favorite pastime of many attorneys, most would agree that in today’s hyper-competitive environment, it has become an activity that law firms must understand and, increasingly, embrace. In light of this, the 2015 ABA Techshow lunch and learn session, “The Future of Advertising,” sponsored by FindLaw and presented by Eli Romberg, strategic partner manager with Google, presented a compelling picture of advertising trends that characterize the emerging marketing landscape.

Romberg laid the groundwork for his presentation by noting that online activity is pervasive, culture is increasingly propagated and shared digitally, TV and online are converging, and mobile continues its staggering expansion in usage. These trends feed into five factors that will characterize advertising’s future:

Choice. It seems obvious that ads will be more effective when users see them as relevant to their interests, but historically advertising has had a spotty record of delivering on this principle. As technology evolves, however, functionality such as YouTube’s TrueView allows users to efficiently skip ads that don’t relate to them and quickly identify and watch those that do.

Control. Increasingly, users will gain greater control over their preferences so they only see ads that relate to their interests and needs. As a more detailed picture of user preferences develops, advertisers will be able to target prospects across a variety of criteria including user interests, demographics, context, and behavior, increasing the likelihood that ads closely match the user’s need. For law firms, there is tremendous opportunity to dramatically improve the targeting of prospects and attract the most desirable prospects.

Connected. With the rise of mobile, users are constantly connected. They search for information across multiple devices in a variety of physical settings. As advertising continues to evolve it will continually improve in its ability to determine user intent and context (e.g., device, location, time) and deliver the most relevant ads. For example, this means that at 2:15 a.m. on a Saturday, ads for DUI attorneys will often be more relevant than those for bankruptcy firms and ads will be served accordingly.

Charm. The format of search and associated ads will become increasingly engaging. For example, Google has developed intelligence that can leverage the content in your Gmail account to answer questions such as “When is my next flight?” or “When will my package arrive?” Law firms can deploy services such as Google Hangouts to link video conferencing to an ad, making live contact with the firm just a click away.

Calibration. Finally, advertising will move from a focus on discrete ads to a carefully orchestrated portfolio approach. Leveraging analytics, firms will be able to understand the interaction among all their advertising activities. The result: clear visibility into which tactics or combinations of tactics work best so firms can move their dollars where they have the biggest impact.

For many law firms, increased marketing is a fact of modern competition. Understanding how advertising is evolving will position firms to get the most from their spend and target potential clients in ways never before possible.

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