CHICAGO — The American Plastics Council has reduced its advertising spending 10 percent annually for the past two years, to about $17 million this year, but says it has yet to see a decline in the public's attitude toward plastic.
The latest research by APC also indicates, at least tentatively, that declining recycling rates and environmental pressure have yet to hurt opinions about plastics generally.
APC has cut spending on advertising roughly in half in the past five years and is trying to find the lowest possible level that does not result in the public favoring other materials more than plastics, Bailey Condrey, APC director of advertising and new media, said at an NPE news conference.
``We are looking to do the campaign more efficiently,'' he said.
Plastic has a 64.3 ``favorability'' rating, on a scale of zero to 100, and has held at that level for the past year after rising dramatically from a 52 rating in 1992, the survey said. By comparison, steel and paper score 64 and 64.2, respectively, roughly equal to 1992.
``We can't take all of the credit,'' said James Hoskins, senior vice president of Wirthlin Worldwide in McLean, Va., which did the research for APC's campaign. ``A lot of different things have happened from a number of different directions and have improved the environmental image of the industry.''
The scale asks people to rate materials, with zero indicating a very negative opinion and 100 a very positive opinion. A rating of 50 is considered a warning sign and 65 generally puts an industry in the ``most admired'' category, Hoskins said.
A company in bankruptcy generally rates in the mid-40s and the tobacco industry would be much lower, he said.
Thus far, public pressure from environmental groups and the tough times in recycling have not lowered public opinions about recycling, Hoskins said.
``I don't see strong negatives emerging,'' he said.
While the current survey does not indicate if content changes are needed in the APC campaign, the organization plans a new benchmark study next month to gauge that, Condrey said. It will ask detailed questions of hundreds of consumers and attempt to figure out why they like or dislike plastic, he said.
The last benchmark in 1992 found that people did not like plastic because it was not biodegradable and had low recycling rates, he said.
APC has been able to figure out television viewing habits of some of the undecided consumers and discovered that they watch news programming, Condrey said. The Washington-based trade group plans to step up television advertising and decrease radio, while holding print steady, he said.
He declined to say how much APC spends on each type of media.
The survey also interviewed 250 people who attended the 1994 NPE and identified themselves as general managers or engineers/designers for processors, original equipment manufacturers and manufacturers in major sectors such as appliances, automotive and building and construction and found them optimistic about the future of plastic.
The most important advantages of plastic for the NPE attendees was its use in a range of applications, its cost savings and its light weight. But plastics ranked below other materials in preference in strength, use in structural situations and high temperature applications.
The greatest opportunities were in the automotive industry, replacing metals and woods, and building and construction, the NPE attendees said. The greatest obstacles to using plastic are cost, durability, lack of recycling and environmental concerns, the survey found.