—about fifty years ago and today.
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.
Just about a month ago, in the San Francisco Chronicle of 12−22−19, 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 1−10−20, 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 1−80” 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?)