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PLASTICS' IMAGE RIDES ON GUTS AND MONEY

March 16, 1998

No one at the American Plastics Council should be surprised that plastics' image has slipped, as explained in Steve Toloken's Feb. 23 story, "Plastics' image slips in public opinion poll."

From the start of APC's communications and advertising program, the evidence has been clear and simple.

Once a minimum annual advertising target rating point expenditure is met, public opinion about plastics' attributes -- health, safety and environmental -- grows and stays positive. As a former member of APC's Advertising Committee, I received the reports along with other members, and we all learned the simple facts.

There's no mystery about it. The simple fact is, if the plastics industry doesn't communicate for itself, about its strengths as well as its weaknesses, the anti-plastics messages from its commercial and environmental competitors will continue to distort public opinion. Although not as blatant as their former bashing style, today's more-subtle competitive material messages are effective. When the Steel Recycling Institute's TV spot shows recycled steel dropped on top of plastic waste, it makes a fairly clear statement.

Why has APC not been able to muster the money? Perhaps, especially in view of a chief executive officer change, APC has not been able to muster the guts, first. At one ad committee meeting, immediately after the ad agency presented the results of its studies that showed, without any qualification, there exists a remarkably strong direct relationship between positive public opinion about plastics and the amount of money spent above miniumum-target rating points, a vice president-level chemical company committee member asked: "Well how long do you think we'll have to keep spending this money?"

DUH?

At another meeting, a chemical company representative, attending his first meeting as a new member of the advertising committee, introduced himself by saying: "Hi, I've spent my past career in investor relations. I don't have any experience in advertising."

Hello? What's going on here? When plastics processors, who face the market battle every day at street level, look correctly to "the big guys" for industry leadership, and then the leadership committees fall short, it's understandable processors think they themselves could add positively to the solution.

If only "the big guys" would condescend to speak with and listen to processors, and, perhaps even allow processors to work with them in planning and executing the public opinion battles, the industry would benefit, prosper and mature.

What's the risk in giving it a try?

George A. Makrauer
ComAd Management Group Inc.
Treasure Island, Fla.

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