Volume 9, Issue
Cause & Effect
The Window Film Industry Reacts to
Perceived PR Problem
by Darrell Smith
Editor’s Note: A column submitted by John Miller titled ‘The PR “Problem”’ in the September/ October issue of Window Film generated strong feelings. The following are two responses from members of the industry with regard to Mr. Miller’s column.
As someone intimately involved in the hard work done by manufacturers, through the AIMCAL-Window Film Committee (WFC) and the International Window Film Association (IWFA), which work to promote the window film industry, I was offended by John Miller’s use of a guest column in our industry magazine to make a sales pitch for his services by denigrating the hard work of these organizations. Miller gives no indication that he has any inside knowledge of the efforts made by the WFC and IWFA or anyone else on behalf of the industry—in fact, he admittedly bases his criticisms on an “informal review” of public relations (PR) activity.
Therefore, before responding to the content of Miller’s article entitled “The PR Problem,” I believe some comment about Miller’s credentials is in order. Several years ago Miller did PR work for Southwall Technologies on the company’s “Solis” window film products. When the WFC needed someone to put together a series of short and simple PR pieces espousing the benefits of considering film use, Miller’s name was proposed to the committee by one of its members. After contracting Miller’s services, it became quite clear to the WFC that there were vast differences of opinion between what he and the WFC believed the film industry’s message should be to the public. These differences ended the relationship. As the WFC manager, Miller reported to me. Unless Miller is the best kept secret in the industry, the only film industry companies for which he has worked, before or after that time, of which we are aware, are Southwall Technologies and V-Kool USA, neither of which are members of the WFC or the IWFA. In addition, Southwall manufactures only one category of window films (“spectrally selective reflectives”) and V-Kool limits its product offering only to this higher-priced, higher-technology product. It is hard to imagine that a single-technology, single-product line view could give anyone, much less Miller, enough breadth of understanding to legitimately criticize an entire industry’s effort at promotion (or lack of it, as Miller would have us believe). I also find it ironic that the vehicle through which Miller chose to make his statements (Window Film Magazine) has been a major part of the industry’s internal efforts to self-educate its members, working very closely with both the WFC and IWFA membership in a mutually beneficial relationship. Neither Southwall nor V-Kool USA was a contributor or advertiser in this edition. Without this magazine, this internal PR vehicle, partially supported through ad revenues and contributed articles by industry members, Miller’s message might not even have been published.
What’s Goin’ On
I am not going to take the time to dispute each detail of each of Miller’s statements. Instead, I would like to address some of what manufacturers, the WFC and the IWFA are doing to promote window film (activities of which Miller is apparently unaware):
1. Co-operative advertising plans: Almost all manufacturers have press-ready ad slicks, logo sheets, literature for imprinting and taped advertising messages ready for use by their distributors and dealers. In addition, most of them have some level of co-operative advertising plan through which they reimburse their dealers for a portion of any advertising they do using their logos, brand names, etc.
2. Piggyback promotions: Many times, manufacturers or distributors will run an ad or PR campaign in a localized market and allow the dealers there to either “piggyback” their own advertising into the campaign or to share in the leads generated by such programs.
3. Company websites: Most of the industry manufacturer members and many of the industry distributors have elaborate websites, with much content aimed at potential end-users. Almost all printed literature and other advertising also directs consumers to these websites for more information.
4. Involvement in other professional organizations: Several manufacturers, distributors and dealers are, individually, both members and active participants in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the Building & Owner Management Association (BOMA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Protecting People First Foundation (PPFF), the SafeAmerica Founda-tion, and ASIS International. One even belongs to the Skin Cancer Foundation. All of these organizations help promote the message that film works and, in addition, our industry folk gain third-party credibility by their affiliation and support of these other organizations.
5. AIMCAL-WFC activities: The WFC is 100-percent self-funded by the seven window film manufacturer members and three raw film suppliers. The annual budgets of $300,000-$500,000 in each of the last five years are aimed at four primary areas: monitoring and influencing the direction of automotive legislation at both state and federal levels; monitoring and influencing the direction of building codes as they may affect future film uses; production of research projects and white papers about specific film concerns (seal failure, glass breakage, seismic performance, blast mitigation issues, wind testing, etc.); and direct participation in many groups dealing with window/door issues (Glazing Industry Code Committee, Glass Association of North America, Protective Glazing Council, National Glass Association, Independent Glass Association, California Glass Association, National Fenestration Rating Council, etc.).
6. IWFA activities: The IWFA picks up where the WFC leaves off, that is, with education and communication to the dealer base and consumer marketplace. It works directly with Window Film to provide articles of interest and to contribute and comment on other articles. It meets with utilities to advise them of how best to reach the consumer and involve film dealers in their promotional programs about energy conservation using films and in their rebate programs. It also provides speakers to outside groups seeking more knowledge of the film industry and its products and their uses. These groups have included the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), the California Glass Association (CGA), Glass Association of North America (GANA), Insulating Glass Manufac-turers Association (IGMA), the Independent Glass Association (IGA) and the national offices of the Chambers of Commerce. In addition, it has a board seat with the SafeAmerica Foundation, the Protecting People First Foundation, the Glazing Industry Code Council and the Protective Glazing Council, and, as such, has a voice in making sure the message of film use is included in the efforts of those organizations also.
On the Web
A major area of PR and consumer contact for the film industry is through the IWFA website. When first designed years ago, the site was envisioned as providing information primarily to its membership. Then the site was opened up to everyone, with only certain information reserved for the Members Only section of the site. Monthly use in 2003 included more than 150,000 page requests per month. An investigation of those visiting the site discovered many were consumers or business professionals seeking to gather general information or make a better informed decision about a pending film purchase, with growth reaching 180,000 requests per month in early 2004. As a result of this information, the IWFA redesigned its entry page to become the “Window Film Information Center,” a consumer-oriented page, and launched the new design in April of this year. Usage went to over 240,000 page requests from more than 15,000 unique requesters. Clearly, this is a major consumer PR center.
The PR in Practice
I do not know what, if any, response to Miller’s article may be received from others in the industry. The WFC and the IWFA, of course, welcome any suggestions regarding promotion of window film from knowledgeable people in the industry. Having personally been involved for years in the planning, budgeting, and execution of promotional and PR activities for a major manufacturer member of the industry, and being personally involved in all those same areas for both the IWFA and the WFC, I found Miller’s comments to be, at best, self-serving (since he is in the PR business he is promoting) and, at worst, a shameful use of an industry resource such as Window Film magazine and otherwise good print space (that could be used for some positive promotion or PR message).
Darrell Smith is the executive director of the International Window Film Association and committee manager of the AIMCAL Window Film Committee.
The “Problem” Isn’t PR—It’s Lack of Support in the Industry
by Virginia Kubler
First, let me say that I am disappointed that Window Film would publish the guest column titled “The PR “Problem”” (see September/October, page 9) without checking out John Miller.
Second, I think that Mr. Miller is ill-informed about what has been going on in the industry and I, for one, could send him enough copies of articles and published materials to bury him. Several years ago, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) worked with Mr. Miller without much success. CPFilms employs both a public relations firm and an advertising agency and spends several million dollars a year to advance the awareness of window film in both the consumer and trade marketplace. In addition, we work with several organizations to promote awareness of film through specifying professionals (American Society of Interior Design, American Institute of Architects, Skin Cancer Foundation, National Association of Energy Service Companies, etc.).
Does every window film company spend a lot of money promoting window film? No, because there are a number of people who undervalue window film products and think the selling solution is to pile it high and sell it cheap. IWFA and AIMCAL are totally funded by the manufacturers, distributors and dealers in the window film industry. Not everyone participates in these valuable organizations, which speaks volumes about what those individuals think is required. The limited resources of the association participants cannot be spent to promote those who sit on the sidelines. The manufacturers who see the value of publicity and promotion spend their money to promote their brands. The others are content to sit on the sidelines as scavengers and pick up the scraps.
Most of the things John Miller cites in his “press vacuum” have, and are continuing, to be done. And, by the way, did he catch Regis Philbin giving a plug for window film on his show after he had his Manhattan apartment tinted? That was no accident.
We hope that on balance, your readers will not be jaded by the opinion of John Miller that was presented in the September/October issue. There is a lot more going on than was portrayed in that self-promoting article.
Virginia Kubler is the business director of CPFilms.