AdAge posed an interesting question today in one of their videos entitled, "Can an Ad Campaign Make Millennials Love Plastics?" and I felt compelled (obligated, even) to answer.
For starters, the question is a little misleading. The video isn't actually about an ad campaign; it's about a social media campaign. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) is planning to engage online communities in a discussion about the benefits of plastics. A social media campaign is very different and much more effective than an ad campaign for this purpose, which is to sell us an idea as opposed to a product. One of the best ways to sell an idea (to any generation) is through word of mouth. Since Gen Y does so much communicating online, it's a great place to try to ignite conversation.
They wisely spent a year conducting research on the Millennial audience. SPI President/CEO William Carteaux said studies revealed that Gen Y is "a little skeptical," because they haven't been presented with the facts about plastics. I think it's safe to say that we're more than a little skeptical. SPI's biggest challenge is going to be squelching the idea of plastics that's been ingrained into our psyches. When I think about plastic, I conjure up images of cute baby animals choking on bags or the penguin from Happy Feet with soda rings stuck around his neck.
Even the word "plastic" has a negative connotation. I'm guilty of using it to describe people that strike me as fake or vapid.
SPI's strategy to overcome plastic's less-than-favorable image is to offer a detailed look at the various facets of the product beyond the old paper vs. plastic debate. They want to highlight all the good plastics can do - making things like medical supplies, alternative energy sources, and fuel efficient cars possible.
If they can present enough research that the benefits of plastics outweigh the shortcomings, and initiate good conversation around the topic, I think this campaign could be a success. Can they make Millennials love plastic? Probably not. But if they play their cards right, they might be able to make us not hate it. I'm keeping an open mind and I'll do a follow-up post after the campaign launches in Q3 of this year.