As Seen on TV
Every day, Texans are inundated with a relentless stream of advertising for legal services.
As we’ve discussed before in this blog, personal injury trial lawyer advertising is neither new nor unique to a certain part of the country. If you’re watching TV, it seems these ads are inescapable.
A new report from the American Tort Reform Association shows just how common these ads are. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Texas TV viewers in the state’s four largest media markets saw an average of $4.1 million worth of legal services ads. This translates to an average of one legal services ad every minute in these four media markets.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, viewers saw an average of 14 local legal services ads an hour. Viewers in Houston saw 12 times as many legal services ads as commercials for banks. San Antonio saw the highest amount of spending on legal services ads, despite the media market being only a third of the size of Dallas and Houston. In Austin, viewers saw eight legal services ads for every one supermarket ad and four times as many legal services ads as fast food ads.
These are just local legal services ads. This does not include ads aired by out of state law firms and client generators that often target prescription drug and medical device users. As you may know, the Texas Legislature is considering a bill this session to rein in the language used in some of those ads that misleads some viewers into thinking the ads are supported by medical experts, or that they should stop taking medication at the risk of being injured by the drug.
This legislation, Senate Bill 1189, has passed the Texas Senate and is now before the House. Its bill author, Dr. Dawn Buckingham, is a physician who is concerned about the public health effects these ads are having on viewers, particularly the older Texans who the ads target. The House author of the companion bill, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, made a strong case in a committee hearing that other advertisers aren’t allowed to mislead viewers, and lawyers should be treated no differently.
It is clear Texas has no shortage of legal services ads. And as long as those ads are not misleading or giving the type of advice that should only be given by a doctor, they should certainly be allowed to air on TV. But we should all be concerned any time an ad misleads people into taking an action that could potentially hurt or kill them, as the FDA has found is the case with some legal services ads.