WASHINGTON—The American Plastics Council has revamped its advertising — launching two new television ads, eliminating national radio spots to keep TV spending high and developing a new Internet site.
APC redesigns its TV advertising every three years, and the two new ads launched Jan. 10 remain faithful to old APC themes — that plastic protects people, makes them safer and has medical and health benefits.
The public image campaign is a significant part of APC's budget, accounting for $21 million this year, or about half of the Washington-based trade group's total spending.
The organization did not change the themes of its TV advertisements primarily because the public image of plastics remains comparable to other materials in opinion polls, said Susan Moore, vice president of communications at APC.
APC officials got a scare in late 1997 when the favorability of plastics dropped below other materials, but the industry boosted ad spending. Favorability rankings hit record highs in 1998, Moore said.
One new ad features a toddler running around a house, with plastic objects repeatedly saving her from trouble. The child runs by an electrical outlet with a plastic plug, is foiled by a child-resistant plastic bottle and is kept from falling down stairs by a plastic gate, while an announcer intones that plastic is ``like a life insurance policy you never knew you had.''
The second TV ad begins in an emergency room, and illustrates plastic tubes, IV bags, breathing masks and other equipment being used to save a man's life.
To develop the two final ads, APC spent $450,000 developing five ads and creating animated cartoons of what they would look like. Each ad was then shown to several dozen people, who spent as much as 90 minutes in one-on-one conversations with researchers analyzing the ads.
APC is looking for images that strike an emotional chord, Moore said. The group targets a broad audience, from 25 to 54 years old.
Since the campaign's launch in 1993, 55 million Americans have changed to pro-plastics viewpoints, Moore said.
But 30-40 percent of the population remain ``swing'' consumers, a group that APC has been unable to target except to learn that they like shows like ``Touched by an Angel'' and news programs more than most viewers, Moore said.
Since the campaign began six years ago, APC has cut its advertising in half, when measured by target rating points, a gauge of how big of an audience is exposed to the message, Moore said.
``We have continued to move people as that reduction has taken place,'' she said. ``We are truly in a maintenance mode. There isn't the money or the energy to thrust ourselves way above the competition.''
One of the chief competitors, the steel industry, also is launching four new ads Feb. 15, as part of its $100 million, five-year effort to promote the safety and recyclability of steel, said Holly Blumenthal, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Steel Alliance.
The steel ads will run the same themes of safety, strength and security, and also will continue to use an explicit recycling theme. APC officials have steered clear of blatant recycling themes since APC reached agreement with 11 states in 1995 to limit potentially deceptive references to plastic recycling in print ads.
APC considered doing an environmentally themed ad this time, with a firefighter, in protective gear made from plastics, battling a forest blaze. But APC's lawyers got very nervous about it because it closed with a shot of a forest that had been saved, Moore said.
``The lawyers said someone is going to think you are making an environmental claim,'' she said. ``That shows how cautious advertisers have to be about making environmental claims or what is perceived to be environmental claims.''
Recyclers sometimes argue that the money spent on advertising could be better spent developing markets for recycled plastic. Moore did not have specifics, but said APC has spent millions of dollars on recycling during the past eight years. Overall, industry trade groups and companies have spent more than $1 billion on recycling support and research, she said.
The steel ad explicitly touts steel's recyclability, saying steel is the most recycled material in the world.
Moore said APC does not use recycling messages on its TV ads because it wants the ads to focus on things that bring peace of mind to people, like children, safety and medical advances. ``Recycling simply does not fit that definition,'' Moore said.
APC also is launching three new print ads, one on food safety, one on source reduction and an auto-themed ad looking at how plastic boosts safety and makes cars lighter.
APC's new Internet site, www.plastics.org, takes the group's existing Web site, which was focused on resource conservation, and broadens it to look at the economic benefits of plastics and its use in everyday life.