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March 4, 2024

From Super Bowl ads to billboards, CT attorneys are in an advertising ‘arms race’

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Attorney Brooke Goff, a personal injury lawyer whose Goff Law Group is based in West Hartford, has 30 to 35 billboards across Connecticut at any given time.
HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Attorney Brooke Goff is expanding her main office in West Hartford, doubling her 15,000-square-foot space in an office complex at 433 South Main St.
Lawyer advertising rules ‘have been throttled back’ 
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One billboard shows a photo of a pregnant Attorney Brooke Goff with the catchy phrase, “Eating for two, fighting for you.”

Another features a cut-out photo of Vanilla Ice – yes, the actual American rapper, actor and television host – falling to the ground next to a smiling Goff, clad in a red business suit, and the question, “Slip and fall on ice, ice baby?”

These are two of the West Hartford-based attorney’s billboards, among dozens on which she appears throughout the state.

And that’s just the beginning.

Goff ran three Super Bowl advertisements this year. She has a YouTube cooking show, “Bake & Sip,” where she combines her love of cooking with her legal acumen.

She has contracts with all the major TV networks and is even on TikTok.

If her ads seem a little bit outrageous or cloyingly omnipresent — that’s the point. As the face of Goff Law Group, she’s a brand and wants to be seen and remembered.

She wants her name to be in the back of people’s minds, so when they need a personal injury lawyer, they’ll think of her.

Goff is as passionate about marketing as she is the law. She was working toward her MBA when she was accepted into law school and decided to change career paths.

“I feel like a lot of lawyers are great lawyers, but they don’t know how to run a business,” Goff said in a recent interview with the Hartford Business Journal. “And you have to be equally great at both to be able to be a presence to be reckoned with.”

She views advertising as an investment to help her business grow and attract new clients. She also sees it as an investment “in the people that allow me to practice law.”

“I take the advertising side of it very seriously,” Goff said. “I try to use the airtime to educate people, more so than telling everybody how great I am. I really try to use that time to let people know what the laws are, and what their options are, so that if they get in an accident, or whatever happens to them, that they’re aware.”


Goff is expanding her main office in West Hartford, doubling her 15,000-square-foot space in an office complex at 433 South Main St.

Goff, who writes and designs her own ads, is building a recording studio in a space adjacent to her current office. The new area features a state-of-the-art kitchen and recording studio, where she will film her cooking show and commercials. It will have a floor-to-ceiling, 20-foot-long glass viewing room, green screen and control room.

Her business footprint covers the whole state, and extends into Massachusetts. She currently has 12 attorneys with five satellite offices in Connecticut, and one in Boston.

Goff declined to say what percentage of her revenue she spends on marketing, but said it totals “millions and millions and millions of dollars over the last several years.”

She bought three, 30-second Super Bowl ads this year, which played in all of Connecticut — ones before and after the halftime show, and another during the third quarter. She picked the time slots based on when she thought most people would be paying attention, and she also negotiated exclusivity so she’d be the only Connecticut attorney on the air.

The commercial shows her in front of a football field, asking potential clients to call Goff Law Group and “finish with a touchdown.”

She declined to say how much she paid, and CBS doesn’t release the price of local ad spots. According to the Wall Street Journal, a national ad during this year’s Super Bowl cost about $7 million for a 30-second spot.

An average of 123 million people watched Super Bowl LVIII, up from about 115 million in 2023, according to the NFL. The increase was attributed, in part, to attention the game received from Taylor Swift fans.

Goff said she has already secured spots for next year’s Super Bowl, when she’ll debut a new ad.

Goff’s business strategy involves a high volume of cases, which makes the most-watched TV program in the world a prime venue for her advertising.

“You can’t educate people if you don’t have their attention,” she said.

Intense competition

Goff isn’t alone. Marketing among law firms, particularly ones that specialize in personal injury, is ultra-competitive.

Eric Cavoli

“What we’re seeing, especially here in Greater Hartford, is an arms race,” said Eric Cavoli, creative director at CashmanKatz, a marketing firm based in Glastonbury. “It’s who can spend the most money, who can get the most billboards up, who can shout their name the loudest.”

Cavoli said many attorney advertisements are based on name recognition rather than points of difference with value propositions because law firms tend to have “remarkable parity, meaning they’re mostly the same, at least from the consumers’ point of view.”

“The consumer has no real way of choosing and discerning who’s better,” he said. “So, a lot of the consumers’ choice is just based on name recognition, and in some cases, face recognition.”

It wasn’t always this way. Attorneys were prohibited from advertising in any format until a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned state laws banning attorney advertising.

But in Connecticut, attorneys were barred from advertising on TV until a Jan. 3, 1984 decision by the state Supreme Court in Grievance Committee vs. Trantolo.

In 1980, the co-founder of Hartford-based law firm Trantolo & Trantolo, Vincent Trantolo, broke the TV advertising barrier, knowing it would land him in trouble with judicial overseers.

“He was a pioneer,” said Scott Trantolo, CEO of Trantolo & Trantolo, and Vincent’s son. “He was a leader in marketing, and it was something that he believed in so much so that he was willing to put his license and his livelihood on the line to fight for what he believed was his right: the opportunity to market to people to let them know that he could provide them legal services and for a reasonable cost.”

(From left) Scott, Keith and Vincent Trantolo of Hartford-based law firm Trantolo & Trantolo.

The elder Trantolo ran multiple TV ads, including one that showed a couple splitting their assets during a divorce. They used a chainsaw to cut a table in half.

“Then they both turn to the dog, and look at the dog like, ‘Should we cut the dog in half?’” Scott Trantolo said. “That’s hilarious.”

Sure enough, the ads caught the attention of the Statewide Grievance Committee, which oversees attorney ethics complaints, and Vincent Trantolo received a reprimand.

He appealed to the state Supreme Court. Eventually, the decision was overturned, with Chief Justice John Speziale concluding that the state’s advertising ban was “repugnant to freedom of speech.”

The case set a precedent that cleared the way for attorneys to advertise on TV in Connecticut.

Trantolo & Trantolo is known for prolific advertising. Not only does the firm run ads on TV and billboards, it recently increased its online advertising, including pay-per-click ads and geofencing, which allows it to reach a geographically-targeted market, Scott Trantolo said.

Trantolo & Trantolo, which recently celebrated its 85th anniversary, now focuses solely on personal injury law. It has five offices in Connecticut, and recently opened two in Long Island, New York.

Anti-advertising views

Attorney advertising has its detractors. Some lawyers believe that advertising undermines the dignity of their work, while others say it overwhelms the court system with frivolous cases.

A report from the American Tort Reform Association released in February said that trial lawyer advertising between 2017 and 2021 totaled $6.8 billion, including more than 77 million national and local ads. The number of ads aired by law firms across local and cable television, radio and billboards increased more than 30% since 2017, according to the report.

The advocacy group blamed trial attorney groups for “inundating consumers with deceptive ads,” particularly in large class action lawsuits against drug companies.

Scott Trantolo said some people still view attorney advertising as a “faux pas” that contributes to an overly litigious society.

But he sees the legal system as self-policing because personal injury attorneys won’t take cases they don’t think they can win.

“Remember, we’re plaintiffs, we work on a contingency fee,” Scott Trantolo said. “So, we’re like a bank, we invest in our clients’ claims, right? Why would a bank invest in something they thought was a bad investment? They wouldn’t.”

Scott Trantolo said his father was motivated by a desire to serve an underserved population that lacked access to legal resources.

“The rich obviously could afford to spend money to defend themselves or to file suit or file a claim against somebody,” he said. “It was really the middle class that was unrepresented.”

Wide appeal

Goff similarly seeks to reach a wide audience, including populations who might not realize they can hire a personal injury attorney on a contingency basis without having to pay a fee.

“I have an 11-year-old son, and they talk about my billboards in his class,” Goff said. “I’m reaching audiences that are 9 years old, and I’m reaching audiences that are 79 years old, and you know, that is my goal. I don’t limit myself to any age range because, honestly, accidents don’t have age requirements, right?”

Trantolo & Trantolo has conducted focus group research that found that younger generations are more accepting of attorney advertising, Scott Trantolo said.

He said that competition between firms is stiffer than ever, which continues the need for advertising to stay top-of-mind.

“(The competition) is constantly coming in, nipping at our heels, and we’ve got to stay on top of it,” Scott Trantolo said. “We’re in the process of moving to our next generation of marketing. We’re really excited about reinventing our image or brand, and everything is constantly being massaged and changed.”

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