Plastics, meet Aquaman.
In a simple way, that's a short description for how plastics executives at a recent conference were grappling with how to turn around the industry's public image problems and legislative threats.
They were looking at how competing packaging materials get their message out to the public, when Kristin Kelley, global head of communications with Amcor Rigid Packaging, pointed out that aluminum packager Ball Corp. was using actor Jason Momoa, who plays the DC Comics superhero Aquaman in movies, in ads and social media to talk up their new aluminum beverage cup.
"If you look at what Ball's doing right now, their current ad campaign is using Aquaman, Jason Momoa, in an incredibly clever way," she told a Nov. 3 online panel at the Plastics Packaging Summit. "Aquaman doesn't have any intellectual expertise on sustainability, but what he does have is a lot of influence.
"They have certainly put a lot of dollars and a lot of resources behind education, awareness and marketing, and that is something we can lift and shift, and we should, if we expect to have that same sort of impact," she said.
Kelley urged her colleagues at the conference, which was sponsored by the Plastics Industry Association, to look at what aluminum and other industries are doing on messaging.
"I think there's a lot to learn from that," she said. "They've tapped into really great influencers in the space, not just professors or researchers, which I think is sometimes where we think we have to go to, at least at Amcor."
On the panel, a plastics association representative moderating the discussion said the trade group has recently formed a new communication working group that's expected to look at those image challenges.
But 20 years ago, the industry spent a lot trying to influence public attitudes.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, companies dropped up to $25 million a year on a TV and media effort, the Plastic Makes it Possible campaign, designed to communicate the benefits of plastics and help in political battles. It included regular public opinion surveys to try to measure attitudes toward plastic.
While there's no indication anything on that scale is being considered again, the executives on the panel were clear in their desire to get louder in communicating the benefits of plastics and mentioned areas like the medical industry, food packaging and manufacturing electric cars.