The American Plastics Council last week launched a new consumer initiative, the latest in a series of campaigns launched by the Arlington, Va., based trade group over the past 11 years. This year's campaign is a mix of television, radio and magazine that highlights the contribution the material has made in safety and medicine.
The council is the public mouthpiece of the nation's plastic manufacturers, who started the public-relations and advertising effort in the late 1980s after it found competition from other materials and regulatory concerns threatened business. The plastics industry fought back, pouring more than a quarter million dollars in advertising since then into the message that plastics are indeed, in The Graduate's famous line, the future.
"It was important at that moment for us to educate the American people, to understand why the arguments against plastic were flawed," said plastics council spokesman Thom Metzger. In the intervening years, plastic has recovered its position against other materiel like glass, steel and aluminum. It's also regained ground in the eyes of the consumer, who in surveys done by the council consistently favor the substance.
The campaign has been so successful, Metzger said, that it has instructed its creative and media agency, Grey Worldwide in New York, to spend less. The American Plastics Council is planning to spend $19 million on TV and print advertising next year, which the council said is one of the lowest amounts it has spent on media in its history.
"We think that despite the fact that we're going to be spending less money this year we will reach a greater number of people who are representative of our target audience," Metzger said. He said that the council and Grey Worldwide have tried to find the "sweet spot" in advertising where plastics remain high among consumer preferences while not throwing money away.
"We think that this year, because of some of the more targeted advertising that we will be doing, we will be able to trim it even further," said Metzger.
Grey's strategy includes a mix of four television ads, five radio spots and six magazine ads. The campaign includes the use of 15-second TV spots and carefully selected media buys will build frequency among its target audience, people who would be selecting a plastic product among other competitors.
"We're following a strategy of trying to reach as many people as possible with positive messages about how plastics can positively influence their lives. We think that while television provides the base of the plan, you need to be in other media as well to round out the message," said Charlie Herzog, senior vice president of account management at Grey Worldwide in New York.
On broadcast television, the plastics spots have been in prime and during the day, although the primetime presence has declined as prices have increased and ratings points declined. Herzog said the spots continue to be on in the early morning and daytime, including 15- and 30-second spots in NBC's Today. Grey's strategy for the campaign also includes a healthy dose of cable, which Herzog said is particularly useful in reaching discrete target audiences like HGTV (to reach people who are interested in plastic products around their house) as well as larger reach networks like Lifetime, TBS and TNT.
Because one of their targets is mothers of infants, Grey has gotten the American Plastics Council spots on The Newborn Channel. Herzog said that a lot of baby supplies - like diapers - can be made with plastic and it's a great way to get the women thinking about plastic from the beginning of their child's life.
Herzog said the radio spots are used to reach people who aren't found on television and there's also the use of magazines that help tell a detailed message and impressions more enriched than on television. These include consumer magazines as well as zeroing in on magazines that target women.