Advertising for steel, plastic, etc.?

Why do the steel and plastic industries have commercials all the time? You know, those “Plastics make it possible” or “The New Steel: feel the strength” type things. I’ve never been sitting on the sofa watching TV and saying “You know, honey, we could use six or seven tons of steel!” when these ads come on.

I mean, it’s not really like we have a lot of choice about the material of most products that are made out of steel or plastic. If I want to buy a bottle of Coke, it’s only going to come in plastic.

A spot on national TV seems like a pricey way to get your message out to the few people who would buy steel, or make the decisions to make their products out of it. Wouldn’t trade publications and conventions be more effective?

These industries don’t want you to BUY plastic or steel (or aluminum cans, glass bottles or other such commodities), they want you to WANT them.

Here’s how it works. I’m a manufacturer of household appliances. I’m designing a new electric mixer. I have a prototype with a plastic case, and one with a steel case.

If my focus group of consumers says “Ick, plastic! Cheap and flimsy!” you can bet I’ll be ordering steel. But if my focus group says “Ahh, plastic! Lightweight, durable, strong and rustproof.” that’s what I’ll be putting in the local Wal-Mart.

Same thing with automobile body panels, and lots of other items.

They are designed to influence you when you by the end products of these materials.

For example: Aluminum vs. vinyl siding,
or plastic vs. glass bottles.

The odds that the bread will fall butter side down are directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.

I can’t speak for steel, but aluminum and plastics are in direct competition for the beverage market. I’ve seen spots for both (“Aluminum keeps it colder!”). Furthermore, plastics got a bad rap as being environmentally dangerous, so I figure the plastics spots are a P.R. campaign. “Sure, plastic contain chemicals, but remember that time your 3 year old knocked the bottle onto the floor. If it was glass, she’d of been hurt something fierce. Thank heaven for plastics!” which means that the glass folk need to let you know that glass is more easily recyclable and natural… and so on. As for steel, maybe they’re worried about the amount of fiberglass in cars or else high strength plastics in standard things like desks, office chairs, appliances, etc. So they figure they should start tooting the joys of a steel product.

“I guess one person can make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Do you mean to say that I am, in fact, not supposed to order up a few tonnes of the stuff…

“C’mon, it’s not even tomorrow yet…” - Rupert

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The company I currently work for (a large aircraft manufacturer in Seattle) and the company I used to work for (manufactured yellow earthmoving equipment) run occasional ads directed at the general public, although the general public doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of buying their products directly. It’s all done with the idea of keeping the name in people’s minds, associated with good service and high quality. A much larger share of their advertising budget goes toward influencing their direct customers.

The immediate return on such advertising is presumably very small but in the long run I’m sure it pays for itself. In my case, one of the factors influencing my decision to come work for both of these companies was an association with quality products. A pervasive feeling of goodwill, even though it’s seldom invoked, is a nice asset for any company.

well well said the royal desiccation my political opponents back home always maintained
that i would wind up in hell and it seems they had the right dope
Don Marquis
archy interviews a pharaoh

It might also make you more likely to buy their stock, or at least invest in their industry.


Pluto, I’ve also heard that a large Seattle-based commercial aircraft manufacturer (perhaps a different one from your employer, of course) will step up ad runs during shows (like golf and Meet the Press) that are known or believed to be watched by the six or so people about to make a large purchase decision, essentially running an ad on a whole network trying to catch one person. Is this true or a UL?

Livin’ on Tums, vitamin E and Rogaine

manhattan, I have no information to add to your speculation. They do run more trade ads during, for example, the Paris air show, and when a big government contract for fighters or something is coming up for selection, but I’ve never heard anything regarding network ads named at the select few who make purchasing decisions. Obviously they know who they are and are doing all they can to get on their good side.

Seems like it’d be cheaper to buy them each a Rolls-Royce or something but that’s probably too blatant. Buy their wives each a Rolls. Yeah, that’s it!

Although, given the likely competition, you may not want to remind the “select few” that Europe produces such a great car. Of course, you also don’t want to remind them that America produces an inferior car. Perhaps a nice Lexus?

Livin’ on Tums, vitamin E and Rogaine

Steel is important because you can get your house made of it instead of wood. So, hurricane proof…

Manny and all, anecdote time…

We spend NO money on radio or tv ads, and our print ad budget has, in my eyes, done little (a bit, to be sure) for us. It’s the nature of the beast - we market to a niche in industry and most new business is developed through personal contact and printed materials.

But manny years ago we had a project that needed about three full participants along with the handful of stragglers we managed to dredge up. There was one large company we’d been wooing (the last piece of the puzzle) and I knew their exploration manager, with whom I’d spent several of the previous Friday evenings, would be driving from Dallas to Houston one Friday evening to attend a professional society gathering (the big handshake enchilada of the year).

It just so happened that this Friday was the last day of the local public radio station’s fall subscription campaign and I knew this guy listened to that station while in town. So I made a pledge with the challenge that “beatle will match $xx for any geophysicist who pledges during the All Things Considered hour.” I must confess that this was before everybody had cell phones, so I was counting on the fact that most listeners would be in traffic and could not get to a phone before 6:00 (I wound up matching 3 people).

Anyway, I saw the guy that evening, he had heard it, and we had a signed contract the following Tuesday and the project got done.