Since 1952, Harry Rosenberg, CAS, has been sharing his time, talent and leadership with the thriving industry he helped build.


Many people who make it to age 90, although fortunate to reach that milestone, are living a shell of their former lives because of poor physical or mental health, limited resources, mobility problems or other challenges.

Harry Rosenberg, CAS, who turned 90 in May, counts himself extremely blessed to not only still be breathing in and out every day, but to be living in his own home with Ginny, his wife of 67 years, and to be still working in the business he’s loved since he sold his first promotional product in 1952.

Over the years, Rosenberg, president of Specialty Advertising Consultants, Inc., has worked as a supplier and distributor, and continues to sell as a part-time consultant out of an office at distributor Advertising Premium Sales, Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri.

He became involved early on as a volunteer for Specialty Advertising Association (forerunner of PPAI) and served as PPAI board chair in 1975. He was instrumental in launching this magazine in 1976 and moving the Association’s headquarters from Chicago to Dallas in the late 1970s. He was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 1983—but Rosenberg wasn’t done yet.

In the years since, he has continued to serve on PPAI committees and advisory councils, including the Product Responsibility Action Group. Last year he was named a PPAI Fellow to commemorate his many years of volunteer service to PPAI.

What was your first job and what lessons did you learn?
My first job was at my father’s firm Universal Match Corporation back in 1944. He put me to work on a printing press, printing matchbook covers. Little did I know my future would be in the promotional products industry. We didn’t know about the industry at that time and had many salesmen all over the U.S. who sold candy and tobacco products to taverns, restaurants, liquor stores, etc. We had five factories across the country producing both wood matches and paper matchbooks. My uncle had gotten the company involved in advertising matchbooks by drawing a chef’s likeness on a matchbook in 1922. These were hot in restaurants and got us into the advertising business by the back door.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of several things I’ve been able to accomplish during my career. First is the creation of this magazine [the first issue was published in 1976].  Bob Rawlings was our Association president at the time and had been a newspaper man in Washington, D.C. We bought out a small, one-man distributorship in Florida that was publishing an industry newspaper and doing quite well with it. Another industry publication wasn’t in favor of us venturing into this space but we insisted that PPAI needed its own monthly publication and so we did it.

Another thing I’m proud of is working on moving theAssociation out of Chicago and down to Texas in 1979. We found the first property across the street from the Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas [PPAI later built its own building, also in Irving, and relocated in 1991]. When you see the current headquarters today, it is most impressive. Probably the best of all was becoming PPAI’s chair of the board back in 1975, which allowed me to do those things previously mentioned. I wasn’t elected to the board. Board member Jack Wright needed to leave and he recommended I take his place. I was asked to, so I did.

What promotional product do you wish you had invented?
If I had to choose a product I wished I had created for the industry, it probably would be stress relievers. I had the honor of being one of the industry’s  first supplier consultants, which I still am today, and helped start supplier Ariel Premium back in 1993. It has grown as a major supplier in the industry and now is one of the world’s largest sources of stress relievers. I have helped many other suppliers in varying degrees, but Ariel is outstanding.

If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be and why?
If I had planned to write a book, it would be about the joys of fishing. I went to camp in Wisconsin at age 13 or 14. My counselor was the dean of men at the University of Michigan who had written and published several books on fishing and who taught me how to fish—all kinds of fishing—using artificial baits and worms, and deep sea and fly fishing. When I was active in my business, for years I took my then-favorite distributor, Bill Murphy of Thomas D. Murphy, fishing for a week in Canada, where we caught everything possible. I still love fishing and always will.

What motivates you in business?
What motivates me in business is watching a business grow. I believe that the promotional products industry is one of the finest examples of growing sources of business. Why? Simply because we make and sell products and services designed to help businesses of all kinds grow, and we also grow as our clients grow. True, other industries make products, but we do two things differently. We make products designed to help companies get bigger and more successful, and when that happens we grow with them.

What advice would you give to an industry newcomer?
The advice I would consider offering a newcomer is that they become a distributor salesperson. Calling on potential clients exposes salespeople, male or female, to what a business needs to build a customer network, and gives them access to a tremendous number of potential customers. Also, the opportunity to receive a broad education and exposure to the business world is fantastic.

Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.