WASHINGTON — Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it apparently has given the image of plastics a boost with a sometimes fickle public.
The American Plastics Council's decision to pump more money into its advertising campaign early this year to reverse a slide in public opinion paid off, with some favorability ratings pushed to record levels, industry officials said.
Now APC officials must decide whether they will maintain that increased spending.
The new results, based on polling that APC officials completed in February, showed plastics had record highs in the areas of industry favorability and material selection, after several indicators dropped below competing industries late last year.
But the results also showed that plastics continued to compare unfavorably with other materials on a key environmental question about whether plastic harms the environment, which APC officials attributed to perceptions about problems with biodegradability and recyclability.
Overall, though, Washington-based APC said the additional $1 million it spent in December and January seemed to do the trick.
``Favorability is its highest ever'' and the highest numbers of people are choosing plastic over paper bags, said Susan Moore, APC vice president of communications. ``On all of those measures, we are extremely strong. That's good news for the industry.''
On a scale of one to 100, industry favorability made a statistically significant jump to 65, up from 62 late in the year. And a rating of whether plastics provides environmental solutions rose from 53 to 57, also statistically significant.
``You never know for sure what causes these things to rise and fall ... but I believe there is a direct correlation between advertising spending and public opinion,'' said Don Olsen, senior vice president of public affairs for Huntsman Corp. in Salt Lake City and vice chairman of APC's advertising effort.
Bailey Condrey, who left APC as advertising director in November, said the continued trouble with the question about harming the environment shows lasting public skepticism about environmental claims: ``The numbers went back up not because there is any great trust in plastic. It's because they increased spending.''
The latest APC polling did not repeat some questions from last year that showed environmental problems. For example, one previous question showed that 69 percent of people believed plastics has serious environmental problems — a jump of 10 percent.
APC's member companies plan to decide in June whether to continue to boost advertising spending. APC officials are recommending an unspecified increase, after ad spending dropped from more than $20 million to $17 million.
APC officials said they will not need to increase spending by $1 million every two months, like the boost earlier this year, but they declined to be more specific.