(Oct. 3, 2005) — Plastics processors are going to miss the American Plastics Council's long-running pro-plastics advertising messages.
“Plastics Make it Possible,” and before that “Take Another Look at Plastic,” have been around for a long time — since 1992.
Consider this: yesterday's generation of plastics workers came to the industry as a result of — or perhaps in spite of — the sarcastic “There is a great future in plastics” advice from 1968's The Graduate.
Today's new employees at your company were in elementary school when APC's ads first hit the airwaves — and they weren't even born when The Graduate was in movie theaters.
Processors don't pay the bills for the APC ads, but they did have a hand in the industry's early marketing efforts. They've been an enthusiastic part of the team, and most would agree the $250 million-plus APC has spent on ads has been important to improving the image of the industry.
But the chemical companies that pay for the advertising have other priorities these days.
The plastics ads are being replaced by the American Chemistry Council's “essential2” marketing campaign, designed to boost the image of the chemical industry. The ads kicked off Sept. 22, and the content focuses on how chemicals are essential to daily life.
Perhaps the plastics industry will benefit if ACC can make the public feel better about chemicals. After all, many of the negative headlines about plastics in recent years have been focused on specific chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, used to make fluoropolymers), bisphenol A (a building block of polycarbonate) and phthalates. Processors haven't played key roles in those battles, but they are important to the industry's future.
Still, processors don't feel like they're part of the chemical industry. Any effort to connect chemicals and plastics in these new ads could hurt plastics' image as much as it helps chemicals.
Maybe today's sophisticated consumer already makes that connection. If so, and if ACC's new ads can raise the reputation of chemicals higher than the unpopular tobacco and nuclear power industries — which currently are at about the same level in public opinion polling — then more power to them.
In the end, chemical industry image issues will rise and fall on safety, cost and — despite the best efforts of industry — emotion. Going directly to the public with a message that explains the importance of chemicals is a good idea, because that sector has not been effective at communicating its side of the issues.
But, in this case, what's in the best interest of the chemical industry isn't necessarily in the best interest of plastics processors.