Some of the industry’s idle chatter concerns the perceived need to mount a nationwide publicity campaign to boost the image of the plumbing contractor. “Idle” is the most polite word I can think of to describe such a cockeyed marketing ploy, because:

1. It would take at least $10 million worth of advertising to have the desired impact.

2. Anyone who thinks the industry is capable of raising that kind of money for PR resides in Fantasyland.

3. Even if the industry could raise that much money, there’d be better ways to spend it, beginning with training and education.

4. It’s actually been tried before. Off and on throughout its history, most recently in the 1950s, the association now known as NAPHCC has geared up to raise funds for such a PR campaign but, predictably, never got anywhere.

5. A California plumbing service firm has come up with a much better, cheaper way to accomplish the same end.

When the sparkling white trucks of Wigginton’s Plumbing Service fan out each day from their home base in Sylmar, CA, they bear not only company insignia, but also enlarged photos of missing children. Their five vehicles are believed to be the only “moving billboards” in the Missing/Unidentified Persons Program of the California Department of Justice.

Wigginton Vice President Rebecca Gold said the firm started carrying the photos late last year as a way of “giving back to the community.” Wigginton had to pass a Justice Department investigation before gaining permission to carry the posters, which the state provides and the company reproduces and enlarges at its own expense. The posters measure about 7 feet long and 2.5 feet high, each with pictures of three missing children.

“Since we outfitted the trucks with the posters we’ve been getting a very positive response from the public,” said company President Norm Wigginton. “People pass us on the freeway honking and giving us a thumbs-up sign, or mouthing ‘thank you.’”

When the state notifies them that a child has been found, they place a sticker across that child’s photo. “The sticker helps the public realize that the program is working,” said Wigginton.

Gold and Wigginton gave a spirited presentation about their program at “Power Meeting VII” of the Quality Service Contractors, held June 5-8, 1997, in Toronto. They urged their QSC colleagues to join them in publicizing this cause in hope of reuniting some kids with their families, and as a way to draw positive public attention to the industry.

“You will be benefiting the children, and your company will benefit as well,” they said in an explanatory letter passed out at the QSC meeting. “Company morale will rise, and your technicians will drive with pride as people wave, honk and smile at your company’s generosity. The bad press that dominates our industry will be minuscule when compared to the amount of positive press we can obtain together.”

So there you have it, the industry’s long dreamed of PR campaign, worth at least $10 million if enough of you participate. All it would cost you is a few hundred dollars per truck to enlarge the photos and for their mounting frames.

For more information, Wigginton’s can be reached at 818/362-6026. Fax: 818/367-4729. E-mail: W.P.S.@IX.NETCOM.COM

For pictures of missing children and more information about participating, contact The Polly Klaas Foundation at 800/587-HELP or 707/769-1334. E-mail: Or, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 703/235-3900.

Just do it.