CAMPAIGNS: Company Launch - Polymer partners pitch plastics plant

Client: Cargill Dow Polymers (Minneapolis)

Client: Cargill Dow Polymers (Minneapolis)

Client: Cargill Dow Polymers (Minneapolis)

PR Team: Gibbs & Soell (Chicago)

Campaign: Cargill Dow Polymers Launch

Time Frame: Mid-December 1999 to January 11, 2000

Budget: dollars 250,000 +

Making plastic out of corn is like making gold out of lead. Just try

being the PR pro assigned to sell the media on the groundbreaking

process while serving three different corporate masters.

Stephen Halsey, an account supervisor at Chicago’s Gibbs & Soell, was

given this task with the announcement of a new factory in Blair, NE for

Cargill Dow Polymers (CDP).

The company, a joint venture between Midland, MI-based Dow Chemical Co.

and Minneapolis-based agribusiness conglomerate Cargill, has had a small

Minneapolis facility since 1997, but is gearing up to crank out product

from the new factory by 2001. CDP makes polymers - plastic resins used

for everything from envelope windows to drinking cups - out of natural

resources such as corn rather than the more typical petroleum.


Faced with publicizing a three-year-old joint venture and chemical

process, Halsey fashioned a media event loosely tied to the new CDP

plant. ’The most difficult thing was that there were so many competing

interests (with two parent companies and a joint venture with differing

media needs) to be addressed in such a short time that we had to really

focus,’ Halsey says.

The key problem was how to structure a campaign that simultaneously

addressed the business and consumer media needs of Dow; the agribusiness

and local press needs of Cargill; and the chemical, plastics, packaging

and fiber trade press needs of CDP. Looking for a more potent news peg

than a Nebraska construction site, Halsey decided to follow the


The question was ’how could we tie in the funding of this plant -

dollars 300 million to start up the business from Dow and Cargill -

which would get big media coverage,’ he says.

Halsey decided to go with a three-tiered approach. The elements: a media

event in the media capital of the world - New York - that would use the

huge sum and incorporate a CEO press conference with one-on-one

interviews for the mainstream press.

Breakout sessions with consumers using polymer-based products for the

trade press. A telepress conference for domestic and international media

that were unable to attend the event at the Millennium Broadway hotel in

Times Square.


The first step in preparing for the event was educating the clients.

’We developed message-specific documents focusing on key points for

CDP’s corporate message, packaging, plastics and the like,’ Halsey


In mid-December, a three-tiered mailing campaign began, with a

dimensional mailing (to stand out from the holiday crush) including a

corn-based plastic tent stake (symbolizing CDP ’putting a stake in the

ground,’ explains Halsey) targeting 350 business and trade media


A few days after the first mailing went out, 15 staffers were used to

conduct follow-up calls. A second mailing was dropped in late December,

this time including real corn, says Halsey. A final-reminder mailing was

sent out in early January.


The January 11 event garnered coverage by 155 television stations, 950

radio stations, 67 Internet news providers and more than 30 trade


The mainstream press, including The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and

Reuters, as well as CNN Headline News, CNBC and several international

newspapers all ran highlights. But most importantly, says Halsey, CDP

has directly attributed 55 sales leads to the launch. ’I can’t remember

anything Cargill was associated with that got as much attention,’ says

company spokesman Allan Holbert.


Halsey says his agency will continue to work with CDP to announce

companies using the new process to produce consumer products.

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