Should you get on board with Get In Touch? Part 1 of 2

This article was written by PromoKitchen Chef and current board President, Robert Fiveash.

Should you get on board with PPAI’s Get In Touch! Campaign?

You’re a physician. You went to med school. You are trained well to take care of your patients and sworn to uphold the ethical standards of the Hippocratic Oath. Your compensation is determined by your production, peer reviews, and patient feedback. Despite your busy schedule, you’ve found the time to teach and perform research at the local university. Years ago, you and some of the brightest young minds in medicine developed a novel new treatment for childhood asthma. It’s as effective as any prescription treatment on the market, doesn’t use steroids, and costs about half as much as the market leader for an annual regimen. 

But the competing products and procedures are entrenched – their powerful lobbying efforts have kept your product, SWaG (Stop Wheezing and Gasping), off the shelves and out of the hands of other physicians. SWaG isn’t even listed as an approved treatment available to physicians, depriving millions of children of an effective, low-cost treatment for asthma.

The analogy to our industry might be a stretch, but when Marketing Managers report ad spend, promotional advertising is not listed as a separate medium, alongside its entrenched brethren: TV, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, and a handful of others. We’re a $20.8B ad segment, and “cinema” gets the nod ahead of our medium. 


How do we get included in the marketing mix, so that we’re invited to the crucial budget meetings and strategy sessions, just like our more entrenched brethren?

Since PPAI hired the Saxum nearly a year ago to help promote the industry to a wide range of advertisers (corporate departments, HR departments, ad agencies, etc.), those of us waiting to see how the effort would play out now have a few answers. In conjunction with Advertising Week in NYC, the industry branding initiative will officially launch September 26th.

The primary messaging for the Get In Touch! Campaign speaks to the power and value of promotional products. Exposure in national publications such as AdAge will attempt to show advertising buyers the ROI of promotional products vis-à-vis the other media competing for those dollars, such as TV, digital, radio, etc., and gain a larger share of advertising spend. Importantly, the elements of this campaign will be available to distributors to support the campaign in their local markets.

A secondary message, important but not to be overstated, is promoting and encouraging the use of promotional product consultants. 

So, how does the PromoKitchen community, and beyond, Get In Touch?

1) Engage with the information PPAI is sharing to help us (individually and collectively) promote the industry.
2) Emphasize to clients and prospects that promotional products are a high-ROI medium.
3) Embrace the critical role we (you!) play in helping make the initiative a success.
4) Envision the new you: the promotional consultant capable of making any campaign come alive.

Nuts and Bolts

  • 16-week roll-out designed to create momentum and continue the conversation
  • Every other week (or so) new branding elements will be presented to PPAI members
  • Members will receive digital “toolkits” with PowerTips that describe how to use and when to use the elements of the campaign
  • The toolkits will include print (“click to act”) and social (“click to act”) graphics – professional, high-quality artwork, advertisements, icons, and (eventually) multi-media video that can be used for individual campaigns to a distributor’s clients and prospects
  • Social elements (including graphical statistics and talking points) will be pre-sized for Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram

Several evergreen webinars will be available to train those interested in the campaign on how best to utilize the tools

This five-year, fully-funded (a huge difference from past awareness campaigns), multi-million dollar initiative is an unprecedented investment in the industry’s future. 

Thank you, PPAI, for recognizing the need to promote the industry’s ROI as an advertising medium, and our collective ability to touch the end-user recipient in a way that’s clearly different. Promotional products are a slam dunk (when well-executed), as other media simply do not have the staying power and ability to create an emotional connection through physical touch. It truly is “Advertising that lives on”. Consumers are bombarded literally every few seconds with ephemeral media messages and digital distractions, and there has never been a better time to espouse the benefits of promotional products. Seize your opportunity now!

Check it: The first physical ad in AdAge! And, how about that Seth Godin tie-in in the top right corner!? Paul will be moderating the Seth session “Getting in Touch with the Work That Matters” on September 27th during AdWeek in NYC. If you will be in the area, get in touch with Kim Tadora ( for a chance to receive complimentary tickets to the session. If you are unable to attend, stay tuned for a live feed link to the session, available in a few weeks.

You should commend PPAI for taking on this formidable task. Why formidable? Two reasons: 

1. It will not be easy getting the message through to distracted buyers who are used to doing things the same old way, many of whom see promotional products as last-minute “to-do’s” instead of thoughtfully-considered core elements of an overall campaign.

2. PPAI serves multiple constituencies, and it’s hard for a single campaign to address them all effectively. 

Too frequently today, when a business decides to spend a significant budget on a “traditional” ad campaign, the CEO, CMO, CFO, and several others gather to discuss strategy, how to measure ROI, how competitors might react, the merits of their go-to agency, and whether this new campaign fits its strengths. Multiple meetings, with two or three $50+/hour C-level executives involved throughout. 

But when that same company has a significant budget to spend on tradeshow giveaways, ostensibly to make sure the important new product launch is on the radar of as many attendees as possible, it’s not uncommon for the secretary or assistant to get online, search for the cheapest price on “what we did last year,” and buy from an unknown entity (whose singular credential is that it had the lowest price for the products). A $50 savings may be all it takes. Very little time is spent considering the true “costs” involved in such a decision.


Trinkets and trash, tchotchkes, stuff……pick a name – we’re all tired of being seen by some buyers as the Rodney Dangerfield of the advertising and marketing family tree. “I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap,” Rodney once joked. You know what, maybe we’re not always seen as the old, established roots of the tree (maybe that’s print advertising?), or as the shiny new leaves reaching towards the sun (maybe that’s digital?), but no sap and no tree. It’s time to make sure the influencers in advertising and marketing see our medium as the life coursing through the tree, working in conjunction with the roots, leaves, and bark, and as critical an element as any other in keeping the tree alive and healthy. PPAI’s Get In Touch! campaign will undoubtedly help, but it will take all of us getting on board. And it will take all of us being good enough to deliver on the promises of the campaign.

Now to what may be the biggest challenge facing the Get In Touch! campaign: the fact that PPAI serves multiple constituencies, and hopes that a single campaign can address/placate all. Said one distributor, “I think in order to really get your message through, you need to take a firm stance on which market you are catering to, and I am not sure this is happening here with the ads given the PR agency is creating a message that appeals to as many people as possible. It's a valiant effort for sure, but I'm not sure a company like ours would totally get behind this. The big reason is that we tell our own story about promo vs. using industry-created ads to support our sales efforts.” Is it possible to create a campaign that all levels of distributors (size, experience, reach, etc.) can get behind and use? Maybe. Maybe not. But the truth is, even if it’s just the smaller players using the campaign’s tools to promote the efficacy of our medium, it’s moving the needle.

Obviously this industry, on the distributor side (and supplier side, frankly), is made up of wildly-disparate players who utilize wholly different go-to-market strategies. And many of these players have vastly different resources, experiences, and abilities. For every progressive, daring, solutions-selling distributor with Fortune 500 clients that demand excellence across all services, there are 100 smaller, less risk-tolerant distributors more interested in maintaining the status quo. 

The campaign is a promise to deliver. And clearly some distributors are more capable of delivering than others. All parties are happy when the campaign connects a professional adverting buyer with the agency-style distributor. But what happens when the campaign connects that same buyer with a status-quo or inexperienced distributor? The industry wants to tell the story of skeptical buyers delighted by working with capable promotional products consultants – does the campaign have all of the elements necessary to ensure that story is the one most often experienced?

The campaign will connect buyers to distributors at the Get In Touch Advertising site and the Promotional Products Work site. The two sites do a good job of telling stories about the medium’s ROI, and show a few of the upcoming ads, but they currently cross-reference each other a bit too much. It’s probably better to focus efforts on one or the other rather than splitting the difference. Additionally, the “Need a Consultant?” and “Ready to Design a Winning Campaign?” buttons send the user to a search tool that uses zip code and miles from criteria to find the closest PPAI distributor. 

The tool revealed all PPAI member distributors with 100 miles of my house. 126 different ones populated, in a very clean list, ordered by their closest proximity to me. The list also showed a contact email address, company website URL, address, phone and fax, and a driving directions tool. If I am a Marketing Manager at Coca-Cola, am I really to believe that all 126 can suit my needs? Do I need to visit all the websites on the list? It would be nice to be able to search by services offered (that comprehensive list would be eye-opening and impressive!), perhaps see a “why are you different?” answer, and maybe if the distributor is a “GIT Certified” member.

Of the 126 distributors I saw listed, I had only heard of a handful. But that doesn’t mean that many of these aren’t wholly-capable representatives of the best our industry has to offer. The challenge is that the professional ad buyers targeted by this campaign really have no good way to make sure that what “pops up” will be the answer they’re looking for. How many of these 126 can deliver on the inherent promises of the campaign?