In the Perspectives column in PPB’s April issue, “What Is A Distributor, Anyway?,” PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, advised that it was time we recognize the value added by all the firms in our industry and ensure the terms we use reflect this value while also reducing confusion for the clients who purchase promotional products. Through its Promotional Products Work initiative—learn more about it at—PPAI is expanding its messaging to reach out to and educate buyers on the industry’s value.

You are spot on! Your comments and initiative both echo and validate what I have been preaching and sharing with marketers in our industry for years. When we look at where we have come from, the vast majority of “distributors” have elevated their games to a more sophisticated level. Why shouldn’t the marketers in our industry get paid for their innovation, creativity and ingenuity? Agencies do it all the time; what makes our folks any different? If you need any, and I mean any, assistance in pushing this message, I’m all in. It is now time for us to get our industry practitioners to finally realize their true value in this sales and marketing chain. Bravo for your having the foresight to move this forward. Bravo! 

Cliff Quicksell, MAS+
Cliff Quicksell Associates, an iPROMOTEu Affiliate
Walkersville, Maryland
PPAI 140922

Coming from the client side, working for a top-10 recognized brand for 25 years, I can better see the value of this industry now. I have been using the phrase “promotional products agency” when referring to what we do. Like advertising, PR, social media and activation agencies, we have a strategic approach to creating lasting branded value for our clients. I am not looking to charge for our creativity and research services. Still, I would like the same professional approach to working with us that brands have with the organizations above. Often, we cannot deliver the best options and products to our customers because our piece of the marketing mix is not brought in until the very last minute. If branded wearables and promotional products were considered and included at the start of marketing plans, we could deliver an even better brand impression and ROI for our clients.

Todd Wallace
Vice President of Marketing
Billerica, Massachusetts
PPAI 628594, D5

I agree with Todd Wallace that “agency” is the way to go—“a business or organization established to provide a particular service, typically one that involves organizing transactions between two other parties”—that’s exactly what we do. When I describe what we do to prospects I use “promotional marketing agency.” With Proforma, we offer services beyond promotional products, so I find “marketing” more comprehensive. However, I struggle a bit with the overlap of the academic definition used for promotional marketing—this tends to include special offers to raise interest and awareness, contests and other typical strategies like promoting a free soda with the purchase of two slices of pizza. It’s a broad spectrum of strategies that are considered promotional marketing beyond the products in our industry. 

I believe that the real objective as this new wave takes shape to re-frame our agency position is to change our position within academic circles. Reach out to those who are training new marketers. They can help define our position in the marketing mix, research more and teach the value of using promotional products as a powerful part of the students’ future marketing strategies as they go out into their careers.

Julie Rafeedie Haar
Managing Partner
Proforma Strategic Promotions
Westerville, Ohio
PPAI 737053, D1

Compiled by James Khattak, news editor at PPAI.