When you vote, supporters for a candidate carrying leaflets and signs have to stay outside of some defined perimeter. You’re not supposed to be pestered as you walk into the voting booth.
And, there are billboards of personal injury attorneys not too far from hospitals. But, you’d never see an ad for a personal injury attorney in the ER.
Unless you own a phone.
A personal injury law firm contracts with a digital marketing company. They want to send ads to a target rich location. The emergency room is a natural fit.
“Is everybody in an emergency room going to need an attorney? Absolutely not,” Kakis (who runs Tell All Digital) says. “But people that are going to need a personal injury attorney are more than likely at some point going to end up in an emergency room.”
The advertisers identify a location grabbing a “phone ID” from Wi-Fi, cell tower data, or apps using GPS. The ads are targeted to a location, like the emergency department. Once a user crosses the “digital fence” they may see such ads for a lawyer for a month. The digital trail lingers.
At least one state attorney general takes issue with using such personal information to serve ads.
In a related case, a Massachusetts digital-based advertising firm sent advertisements from a religiously-affiliated pregnancy counseling and adoption agency to those entering Planned Parenthood offices.
Massachusetts Attorney General claimed the ads violated the state’s consumer protection act as the ads were “unfair and deceptive.” The digital firm was banned from doing business in the state.
This same Attorney General argues that directing ads at people seeking medical care is a form of digital harassment.
Also, lawyers are beholden to a strict code of ethics which defines how they can advertise. Lawyers are not supposed to sit in the ER handing out their card. That would result in an ethical violation. And, you cannot have a third party perform what you are forbidden from doing on your own. It will be interesting to see if any state Bar puts the kibosh on geofence digital marketing.
I think the whole practice is creepy. What do you think? Weigh in using the comments box below. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter for weekly content.