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The adman behind California law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedge’s mailing of dummy hand grenades to potential clients says “it was a great campaign” and is wrapping up his next project for the law firm. “It never crossed anyone’s mind that anybody would think they were real,” says consultant Josh Caplan, whose promotional campaign led police bomb squads to evacuate the employees of two San Jose, Calif., businesses earlier this week. He added that he was on the phone Thursday afternoon with firm founder John Quinn, who had told him the campaign and the surrounding publicity had resulted in “a lot of meetings.” The promotion consisted of some 600 brown cardboard boxes that contained realistic-looking black plastic hand grenades with detonator pins apparently attached. An advertising sheet in the box bore the name “Quinn Emanuel” and the message that businesses need to “arm” themselves. The 100-lawyer business litigation firm, based in Los Angeles, is opening an office in San Francisco on Sept. 30. But there was no mention of that in the mailing. In the brouhaha that followed the mailings, designated spokesman Steven Madison apologized on the firm’s behalf and said the consultant had been fired. In a phone interview, however, Madison confirmed that Quinn Emanuel is going ahead with a project that Caplan is handling that will put a poster in the Burbank airport Oct. 1. “But he will not do anything else for us, and he is no longer on retainer,” said Madison, a firm partner. He said Quinn, who was in New York, had spoken to him moments before and agreed the campaign was a mistake. The rationale behind the campaign, Madison explained, was that lawyers had to be “edgy” and aggressive as never before to reach youthful, high-tech business clients in Silicon Valley. A small group of partners had approved the campaign, “but as soon as I became involved, it was stopped,” he said. As part of damage control, Madison said the firm phoned every addressee and warned them about the mailings, as well as offering to send couriers to pick up the boxes. “A significant portion of those we called said they thought it was ‘really cool,’ and there was no way they’d give up the grenades,” Madison continued, adding that once the news stories started running, the firm was besieged with calls from clients and potential clients seeking souvenir grenades. “But there’s no debate,” Madison said. “Even with the reaction going about 10 to 1 for us, the handful of complaints we got means that it was totally inappropriate. In that context, you can’t talk about an upside.” Bob Grimes of Los Angeles’ Amara Grimes Design said his company produced the boxes with the help of a Hollywood prop maker. “We raised concerns about the appropriateness of this from the start, but we were overruled by the consultant,” Grimes said. He added that his company had looked into the legality, and noted that the postal service had told the firm that no laws were violated “unless we did something like use surplus, metal grenades that had the potential to be reactivated.” San Francisco postal inspector Linda Joe confirmed that Quinn Emanuel had approval from an inspector before making the mailings. Legal marketers appeared unanimous in their belief the hand grenades should not have been mailed and would be bad for business. Sally Schmidt, author of the classic 1991 book “Marketing the Law Firm: Business Development Techniques,” said a campaign to “strike terror into companies you hope to do business with is crazy.” Law firm giveaways tend toward bottles of wine with the firm’s name on the label, continued Schmidt, who runs Schmidt Marketing Inc. in Burnsville, Minn. “I do remember one firm that sent out packets of sawdust to invite people to see their remodeled offices.” The public relations chairman for the Legal Marketing Association, John Hellerman, himself a consultant with Washington, D.C.-based Levick Strategic Communications, said marketers do often complain that lawyers are too staid. “Law firm marketers are constantly pushing for lawyers to be bigger risk takers,” he said. “But this stunt goes way over the line.” Tina Love, a consultant for the San Francisco office of Coudert Brothers and a spokeswoman for the local branch of the Legal Marketing Association, agreed. “Edgy? Edgy is something like Gray Cary’s ad in Red Herring,” she said, referring to a photo of a tattooed man that San Diego-based Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich ran in a high-tech magazine this summer. “Given the Unabomber and all that has happened in recent years, it [the grenade campaign] was a terrible lapse in judgment.” Because Quinn Emanuel had declined to identify the consultant, at least one public relations firm that has worked for the law firm moved quickly to distance itself from the campaign. “We haven’t worked for Quinn Emanuel since February, or even January,” Nadia Khawan of San Francisco’s Broderick & Associates said Thursday. “We’re removing them from our Web site, so that no one will draw the wrong conclusion.” Adman Caplan, who usually works for Santa Monica’s Rubin Postaer and Associates but contracted with Quinn Emanuel as a freelancer, said his upcoming poster for the firm features a photo of a greasy, dirty hand. “It says, ‘Sure, you can have the lawyers who took your company public also do your litigation — just like you can have your mechanic do your next root canal,’ ” he said. Far from being chastened by the negative comments that his efforts generated, Caplan said he intends to contact Quinn today with a new project “that will build on all the publicity from the grenade campaign.”

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