Plastics!

Plas­tics!
—about fifty years ago and today.

Then—
In January of 1972, I was designing the graphics for a plastic container to hold meal­worms – packed with thir diet of corn­meal, to be sold to ”bait” fish­ermen. (Dried meal­worms were and are sold as pet food and chicken feed.) But Mighty Mealys were prooduced to a larger size and sold “alive”! The printed promo mate­rial was for the bait shop owners. But they learned quickly to empty each package into a large glass container. (*If the product didn’t sell quickly, the shop would have been crawling). For a sale, the meal­worms with their corn­meal were then scooped out and counted and put into the Mighty Mealys plastic containers.
I still have one to show here. It is a fairlly stiff plastic and there are tiny pin holes around the lid for oxygen. The container’s instruc­tions says: to keep the pack­ages of 50 or 100 meal­worms out of the sun or heat and for longer life add a water source, such as an apple or a carrot.

I wrote of this project, here in 2011 (see: Geezers’ Gallery Pack­aging Worms) .
My report then, told how the sample package with the product inside — was left for too many days and the *meal­worms ate their way out of the plastic container.
Back then, we didn’t know that today there would be three swirling islands of plas­tics in the Pacific Ocean – each the size of Texas and giant walls of plastic trash – waiting in recy­cling ware­houses and collecting on remote Easter Island’s beaches.
The plas­tics, huge to micro­scopic, are diffi­cult to collect and impos­sible to melt, bury or burn.

Now—
Just about a month ago, in the San Fran­cisco Chron­icle of 122219, I saw this report that Stan­ford Univer­sity had recently discov­ered that meal­worms eat plastic.
Now, with one of the biggest trash prob­lems on earth — how can we cover our problem with these crit­ters that morph into beetles to fly off to a tastier diet in corn­fields?
Their excre­ment is only partially organic. There are chem­i­cals from the plastic in the drop­pings that are small enough to blow away. The report doesn’t explain how this research can affect the problem.

On 11020, PBS’s KQED presented an hour on plas­tics where it was said that a bacteria might dine on the chem­i­cals that are in plas­tics. And — will they be good bacteria or — ?
The PBS report told of highway surfaces made from one kind of recy­cled plastic because of it’s long life, but that use isn’t enough to make any differ­ence as re-use. Also footwear has re-used selected plas­tics. It is the 10 ft. walls of mixed plastic trash that is collecting on streets and floating in the seas.
Boycott of prod­ucts sold in plas­tics? Bring your own containers?
Make the purchaser respon­sible? Make the producers respon­sible?
Develop an organic, quickly degrad­able mate­rial to replace plastic?
The report showed a residual from beer-making that produced a plastic-like mate­rial that can even be eaten.
Some solu­tions are needed, SOON !

More, from then—
This was the time that the US market­place received a new kind of world­wide product from various phar­ma­ceu­tical labo­ra­to­ries.

I was free­lancing at that same time (1969 to 1974) with a small art studio (graphics*) in the Wharf­side Building (680 Beach Street, SF). Our loca­tion was next to the offices of Klemptner Casey, a phar­ma­ceu­tical adver­tising agency with Robert Buechert as Creative Director. Our group was able to be their art service for most of their clients’ needs (as well as our other accounts in San Fran­cisco).
KC had Syntex Labs as their client, which had recently won approval of one of the first oral preg­nancy contra­cep­tives. The “pill” became very contro­ver­sial but it was also the time of “women’s liber­a­tion era” in the USA.
Some worried about side effects — some objected that the oral contra­cep­tive would prevent a “natural event”. Up to 1973 (Roe vs. Wade) untold numbers of females of all ages in the USA were dying from amateur proce­dures to stop preg­nan­cies. Even today, the U.S. ranks far behind other indus­tri­al­ized nations in maternal mortality. I didn’t have statis­tics when I ques­tioned my ethic on working on this product– but I felt that the pill would protect women and its promo­tion would not be a mistake.

The launch of the Syntex’s “Norinyl 180” and “Norinyl 1 – 50”— required medical journal ads, brochures, patient aid book­lets, pack­aging and more.
The 8‑panel (two panels were prescribing Infor­ma­tion) brochure, shown below, had a two-page photo. It was a very expen­sive re-creation of a 1934 labo­ra­tory. I never knew the photog­ra­pher or the team that set up the room. (There is one error – some­thing not accu­rate for the date of the fake labo­ra­tory.) The brochure, launching the product, was the complete story of the devel­op­ment of the oral contra­cep­tive. The Mexican barbasco yam was the basis of the “pill” that changed many lifestyles.

(Above, the tiny error in the re-created labo­ra­tory was the two “grounded” elec­trical sockets – below the white jacket hanging on the wall).

I show the pack­aging for Syntex’s Brevicon 28-day tablets. My orig­inal subtle colors, had to be changed to brighter colors because the pack­aging was changed to blue, instead of white. The floral illus­tra­tion needed to be brighter.

Phar­ma­ceu­tical labs and physi­cians were teaching women of repro­duc­tive age how to use their 28-day product each month. The labs couldn’t package the pills loosely in large quan­ti­ties – – each pill for the month had to be punched out in sequence from a card with a thin foil backing. The style of the dispensers, that held the cards, varied from one “brand” of pill to the next.
Promoting the style of the plastic dispenser was empha­sized to the Syntex product repre­sen­ta­tives that called on the physi­cians who would write the prescrip­tions for their patients.

Here are 10 of 72 images from a slide presen­ta­tion to Brevicon reps promoting Brevicon and the pill holder — in compar­ison to competing brands.

(Why did I only show men as doctors? My mother had a woman doctor, way back when I was born !)

The Wallette was a discreet cover for the pill dispenser. For the 5‑view layout, I acci­den­tally rendered one of the female hands darker than the others. It was a lucky error because that caused a discus­sion to choose, for this file folder, a hand-model with a tan– to suggest patients were other than white females.

In 1974, Syntex and other medical prod­ucts moved from Klemptner Casey to J. Walter Thompson and later from JWT to an agency named Barnum Commu­ni­ca­tions (with Bob Buechert at each move).
In 1975, I began free-lancing at Barnum Commu­ni­ca­tions (owner Jim Barnum was of the circus family). JWT had filed legal action for moving Syntex prod­ucts to his agency, newly located at 560 Pacific Avenue, SF.
Time went by, there were even “law-suit” ballads composed by the musi­cally inclined who worked at Barnum Commu­ni­ca­tions. Finally JWT settled. The case was dropped when Mr. Barnum agreed to “cease and desist working in the West”. That left about seven of the agency founders to inherit all of the clients.
1977 there was a move to 901 Battery Street with the new name Vicom Asso­ciates. After another move to One Lombard Street, a few years passed and it was acquired by Foote, Cone & Belding Health­care as Vicom / FCB.
Shown below: Two sections, of a 6‑page, 1992 Vicom / FCB Anniver­sary Party Report. I didn’t know of these parties, but was asked to illus­trate this one. (My illus­tra­tion of “The VICOM Culture” was flopped hori­zon­tally before printing, causing the “initial V” to look strange. The last three show: my window, my work­space and my parking space on the roof (just my car, another week-end dead­line).

One Lombard was my last San Fran­cisco loca­tion.
( Follow0up: So how many other prod­ucts, housed in plastic, did I promote? I’ll have to check back. But who even knew at that time, that one-use-plastics were piling up?)
Ann Thompson