McMillan, LexisNexis ignore the focus group to get “real”

When Ottawa agency McMillan took over the creative assignment for LexisNexis earlier this year, it inherited a legal information client boasting several coveted brand virtues, including “trusted” and “respected.” But Robert Hyams, McMillan’s partner and vice-president of strategic services, said there were also some less-flattering perceptions of the company such as “traditional” and – even worse – […]

When Ottawa agency McMillan took over the creative assignment for LexisNexis earlier this year, it inherited a legal information client boasting several coveted brand virtues, including “trusted” and “respected.” But Robert Hyams, McMillan’s partner and vice-president of strategic services, said there were also some less-flattering perceptions of the company such as “traditional” and – even worse – “invisible.”

McMillan, an independent B-to-B-focused agency, was charged with rejuvenating a brand that had been steadily losing market share to its primary competitor, Thomson Reuters-owned Westlaw (as well as a relatively new competitor, Bloomberg Law), in recent years.

In May, LexisNexis formally awarded its creative assignment to McMillan without a review, ending the company’s partnership with BBDO New York. (About 70% of McMillan’s revenues come from U.S.-based clients including Intuit, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Oracle, said Hyams.)

The 45-person agency first worked with Angela Williams, LexisNexis’s vice-president of new Lexis marketing, about 10 years ago. At the time, Williams was global head of marketing for Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), which specialized in credit information services. That relationship continued when Williams moved to computer software company Intuit in 2007, and again with her subsequent move in 2010 to LexisNexis – a leader in legal research with global revenues of more than $3.2 billion.

Williams’ instructions to McMillan were to create a “disruptive” campaign avoiding some of the standard tropes of legal advertising, such as stock shots of lawyers arguing a point in a courtroom and shaking hands on courtroom steps.

While relatively tame from a consumer marketing standpoint, McMillan’s new “This is Real Law” campaign represents a significant departure from standard legal advertising, said Hyams.

The concept that went to market actually tested the worst out of three proposed approaches, he said, but LexisNexis chose it because it was perceived as riskier.

“Sometimes, in focus groups, people take the safer option,” said Hyams. “[LexisNexis] knew this approach had more legs because it could reach across all the products and reach across all audiences, not just lawyers.”

The campaign is built around an umbrella spot (see above) complemented by video interviews with legal professionals on hot-button issues within their profession. One video, for example, features interviews with law librarians on the impact technology is having on their profession.

The campaign, which also includes web banners, print and mobile advertising, broke last month and will run until the end of the year across print and online properties owned by ALM – a New York-based media company that operates a series of law-focused publications and websites including The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal and Corporate Counsel.

All of the ads drive to a central hub designed by McMillan, ThisIsRealLaw.com, where visitors have access to articles addressing key issues within the legal community that take a soft-sell approach to promoting LexisNexis’s suite of products and services.

“It’s a large idea that enables LexisNexis to position itself with professionals as a thoughtful source of information that they require to do their job, and the products are the byproducts of that,” said Hyams.

“It’s about trying to make that branded connection, like Apple does so well – where people just have a good feeling about what it stands for.”

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