While the Superbowl was a bit of a bust, lawyer Jamie Casino is being widely heralded as scoring a touchdown with his local commercial during the game in Georgia where he tells his life’s story as an advocate for clients. Since I have already ventured into film critique this morning with the students of Columbia, I might as well say my peace about the film of Mr. Casino despite the overwhelming popularity of the commercial. I found the commercial below to be unprofessional and self-serving and just a bit creepy. What is striking about this story is that it was not long ago when such an advertisement would have been viewed as an ethical breach. I did not support those earlier rules against advertisements. However, Casino has a history of such commercials that trade content for flashy effects along the lines of a car salesman or infomercial pitchman.
Casino’s commercials has been called “moving” and “impressive” and even “the best commercial during the Superbowl” by national media and commentators. (I will not question the comparison with the other commercials since I have already expressed my view that this year’s selection was the worst in many years). For that reason, I was looking forward to watching it. I literally did a search to be sure that this was the commercial that everyone was talking about.
The commercial tells Casino’s story of how he represented “bad guys” until his brother was killed. It shows him with a stack of money in front of him with some drug dealer — advancing the stereotype of criminal defense lawyers and suggesting that what they do is morally wrong. (This follows a recent story where a criminal defense attorney is being opposed in a Senate confirmation hearing because he represented a notorious criminal). Casino heralds how he refused to represent bad guys any more in some moral epiphany. His morally uplifting change: he became a personal injury lawyer advertising like a cheap ShamWow salesman like the ad image below with faux magical fire:
I found the video to be uncomfortable to watch as Casino seems to live out his fantasy of being some action figure with tight jeans and a flaming sledgehammer with a cross on it. Sort of Nicholas Cage meets Clarence Darrow meets El Mariachi.
While some have said the commercial also tried to clear the name of Casino’s brother Michael Biancosino, 30, and Emily Pickels, 21, who were shot and killed in Biancosino’s vehicle during Labor Day weekend 2012, he seems much more about him. There is a legitimate grip about the insulting statement of then Police Chief Wille Lovett in a press conference, that “There were no innocent victims.” (Lovett, 64, who retired in October after the disclosure of sexual harassment allegations, actually said a week later that did not mean to imply Biancosino and Pickels were involved in impropriety but that they were the victims of mistaken identity. I fail to see how any professional police officer, let alone a chief of police, could say such a hurtful and frankly moronic thing). However, the commercial was about Casino not his brother and how he became this superhero champion of voiceless and innocent. Of course, the real superman does not normally require an hourly rate or contingency agreement before stopping the speeding train.
Casino has hit the jackpot with the commercial which has been viewed over 2.5 million times.
The standards for legal advertisements have been evolving from the time of a virtual prohibition (which clearly denies free speech) to what in some states is now a race to the bottom. Casino has in the past been leading that race to the bottom in his adverts. Georgia is one of the states that has abandoned the attempt to enforce standards of good taste and professionalism in advertisements. Rule 7.2 on advertisements states in the comments:
Questions of effectiveness and taste in advertising are matters of speculation and subjective judgment. Some jurisdictions have had extensive prohibitions against television advertising, against advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or against “undignified” advertising. Television is now one of the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income; prohibiting television advertising, therefore, would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public. Limiting the information that may be advertised has a similar effect and assumes that the bar can accurately forecast the kind of information that the public would regard as relevant.
The bar makes a good point on the subjectivity of such regulations. Unfortunately, attorneys like Casino have used the deregulation of adverts to display cheesy pitches with special effects and self-aggrandizing images. Here is an example of his work:
It makes you long for “Just Call Saul” as commercials with a modicum of dignity:
I am clearly in the minority on my response to the Superbowl ad but you can judge for yourself below.
Source: Ny Daily News