INDIANAPOLIS - The American Plastics Council's multimillion- dollar media blitz ranks right up there with Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential election campaign, Richard Wirthlin, the architect of both campaigns, said at ANTEC. Wirthlin, who spoke at a May 6 ANTEC session on APC, estimated his Wirthlin Worldwide has put together at least 3,000 campaigns in politics and business. The APC campaign ``is without question one of the top three campaigns that I've been involved with.''
Asked later to name the other two, Wirthlin said one was the Reagan campaign, in which he served as chief strategist. He declined to discuss the third, at the request of the client, but said it was not a political campaign.
Wirthlin was introduced as ``the architect'' of APC's campaign, which features advertisements asking people to ``take another look at plastics.'' He is chairman and chief executive officer of Wirthlin Worldwide of McLean, Va. Wirthlin himself is based in Salt Lake City.
Wirthlin's speech in Indianap-olis comes as APC officials are reporting new data that shows the ads have been effective in changing negative perceptions toward plastics.
The ads have had a broad impact.
``Sixty-nine percent of adult Americans that we interviewed a month-and-a-half ago said that they recalled seeing, reading or hearing ads about plastics and use of plastic products,'' said Wirthlin.
Of that total, 60 percent said they saw the ads on television, 24 percent saw the ads in a mix of several media, 7 percent heard them on the radio and 6 percent read them in magazines.
The longest running TV ad, called, The End, shows a motorist spared injury by an airbag. About half of Americans have seen the ad, and of those people, 90 percent report a favorable impression, he said. Two newer ads, Savings and Good Old Days, have been seen by about one-quarter of Americans, with 70-80 percent of them giving a favorable response.
Public perception has continued to improve as the ads have run and people began to think about plastic in new ways, Wirthlin said.
The image of plastics improved more dramatically earlier in the campaign, and Wirthlin said: ``We're to a point now where I don't think we're going to get dramatic increases in how people view plastic, but if we can hold where we are, we're in the [same] band of our competing materials, which was the objective of the advertising.''
APC's strategy was to increase awareness of what people believe to be plastics' benefits - things like durability, shatter-resistance, food protection and health, safety and medical uses.
``We bet on the proposition that if we could increase the perceived benefits, and the perception of those benefits, that the payoff would be that the costs - that is, the environmental impact, which is primarily negative - would in fact be reduced,'' Wirthlin said.
Besides ads, the APC campaign also has relied on media coverage and a strategy of responding to critics. Wirthlin said the early research to design the ads tried to determine how people link rational thought with emotions. Both are important.
``You can persuade by reason, by the facts, but you must motivate through emotion,'' he said.