March 28, 2014 E3

Viral Video Case Study: Thanks, Dan! How One Video Turned Legal Advertising On Its Ear

Overview:  Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Dan Muessig was looking for a creative and cost-effective way to attract new business.

Challenges: The legal marketplace is extremely competitive. Since the recession of 2008, demand for legal services has stagnated, as the supply of attorneys in the market continues to grow. Muessig is a relatively new attorney in Western Pennsylvania, and he knows that new clients are critical for ongoing success.  Because the space is so crowded, it can be a challenge for new and lesser-known attorneys to attract new business. Traditional forms of advertising can be cost-prohibitive, and Pay-Per-Click budgets have increased exponentially over the last several years, making it an even greater challenge for attorneys to cut through the noise.

Solution:  The production of Thanks Dan! A humorous, yet brutally honest commercial, intended for online distribution.

Results: The video garnered over hundred thousand YouTube views in the first few days of its release and attracted hundreds of leads for legal representation.  Three weeks later, the video boasts a whopping 210,000+ views.  Many legal media outlets, such as AbovetheLaw, have referred to this campaign as The Best Lawyer Commercial Ever.

Who is Dan Muessig?

One of the first questions viewers ask when they see the commercial for the first time is, “Who is this guy?”  The answer may be surprising. Daniel Muessig is an accomplished writer, screenwriter, and freestyle rapper. And, of course, he’s a criminal defense attorney based out of Pittsburgh, PA.

Muessig began freestyle rapping while in high school, and after graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia, he launched a successful music career, touring the globe as Dos Noun.  While on tour, Muessig also wrote a book and two successful screenplays. After several years on the road, he returned to Pennsylvania, earning a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, turning his focus to criminal defense. But he hasn’t given up his creative pursuits. Muessig still performs as Dos Noun and he still writes in his spare time.

Honest Storytelling Through Humor

The Thanks Dan! video concept was hatched out of Muessig’s own brain. But in order to bring the idea to fruition, he needed to collaborate with other storytellers, filmmakers, and marketers.  And thus, he approached the E3 Media team with his idea.

Within two meetings, Dan and our team finalized the concept for the video and began development through E3’s member brand “Covalent Creative”. The idea was to tell a story in a way that was blatantly over the top, but also completely honest.  And at the heart of the video lies a raw truth: Criminal defense attorneys defend people who break the law. In the United States, we are extremely lucky to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but people break the law each and every day. And when someone finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, they require the services of a defense lawyer.

It is this genuine honesty that has resonated with the general public. Those inside the legal profession may have differing views, but the average viewer can (and does) connect with this very simple, and very truthful message.

Jeffrey Hilty of E3 Media also believes it is Dan’s unique self-awareness that has drawn such an overwhelming response. “He has a serious job,” says Hilty. “And Dan takes that job very seriously. He works extremely hard for his client, but he knows he’s not Superman. He’s a lawyer.  That self-awareness is evident in the video. I think that has really resonated with people.”

Hilty also believe it is Muessig himself that draws people in, “As a performer, Dan knows how to connect with people. He brings that ability to connect into his work as an attorney, and he brought it into this video. He’s not a stereotypical lawyer by any means.  Notice how he’s dressed in the interviews he gave after the launch. That’s how he dresses to visit clients. He doesn’t put himself above the people he represents. I think they respect that about him. And viewers get that when they see the video.”

Going Viral

The video launched on March 6, 2014 and within just a few days the campaign attracted over 100,000 YouTube views.  The video, just a few weeks later, now boasts over 210,000 YouTube views.  As the media took notice, dozens of media outlets featured Dan’s story, both nationally and locally, discussed the impressive success of the video.  The attention crossed industries, including music blogs, professional attorney associations, and local news stations.  Just a few of the notable media outlets include:

A Generational Divide

In the aftermath of the launch, Muessig has received both overwhelming positive and negative response, with a clear divide along generational lines. Millennials and those at the tail end of Generation X have given favorable feedback, while Baby Boomers and the older Gen X set have been less receptive to the video.  Muessig commented on the divide to

“There’s a big generational disconnect, especially with lawyers. Younger lawyers get it because they’re younger people. Older lawyers, they take themselves so seriously; it’s so sacred to them—the profession—and it’s not like it isn’t sacred to me, but their sense of humor simply doesn’t allow them to comprehend that you can joke about something like that.”

It comes as no surprise that the Internet Generation has been more receptive to Thanks Dan! than their parents.  According to YouTube, Nielsen data indicates that the video platform reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any single cable network on the air today.  Covalent and Muessig both understood the generation gap when approaching the project. “We were targeting a specific generation with this video,” says Hilty. “We knew there would be a split.”

It is nearly impossible to predict whether or not a video will actually go viral.  But in order to be effective, a video marketing campaign must grab attention, tell a compelling story, and motivate viewers to find out more. The E3 Media team approached this project with a firm understanding of the target audience, while keeping the personality and goals of their client in mind. And with all of it’s humor, hokiness, and genuine honesty, Thanks Dan! created instant buzz and effective branding in a simple 3:30 video.

To learn more about how Covalent Creative can help you tell your story, visit today.

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