As an industry distributor, president of a national marketing agency and a member of the PPAI Board of Directors, I welcome the opportunity to address the recent series of articles, from Fast Company’s “It’s Time To Stop Spending Billions On Cheap Conference Swag,” to AMA Marketing News’s “Your Trinkets Might Be Trash,” to begin a very important conversation.

It’s incredible that in today’s marketplace, where media buyers and advertisers have hundreds of advertising and marketing channels to choose from, they continue to place their trust in an advertising medium that has been around for more than 230 years, starting with the commemoration of George Washington’s election and presidency in 1789. That’s not surprising, because data shows a majority of advertisers believe promotional products advertising is highly effective, and more than 88 percent of media buyers recommend it as part of an integrated marketing strategy or a stand-alone medium. Over time, promotional products advertising has continued to grow at a rate faster than most media, ranking sixth in overall advertising expenditures in the U.S. at $24.7 billion.

But it’s not just about the numbers. We get it. From compostable products to sustainable textiles, the promotional products industry has taken a proactive stance in bringing to market products that give advertisers a choice when it comes to making the users’ experience more enjoyable and better for the environment. As the leading voice for the promotional products industry, Promotional Products Association International is committed to making a positive impact on the global environmental crisis. We have identified environmental responsibility as a core pillar, with mandatory product responsibility education for members.

Let’s be clear: advertisers, marketers and consumers always have a choice.

Advertisers and marketers have the freedom to choose their medium—and they choose promotional products. Consumers have the freedom to take a promotional product or leave it behind. More often they choose to take it because it fits their lifestyle—they love the brand—and they love supporting a worthy cause that’s being promoted using promotional products. Unlike other media that disrupt and interrupt, promotional products are the ultimate permission-based medium. In fact, promotional products are welcome in places and spaces no other advertising can touch. And, if for some reason the recipient doesn’t want to keep the product, 80 percent say they pass it along for someone else to enjoy.

The promotional products industry offers advertisers hundreds of thousands of diverse options and choices to reach highly targeted audiences in efficient, cost-effective, meaningful and, yes, environmentally responsible ways. From eco-friendly to luxury, branded food items to tech products, household to handheld, apparel to awards, it is ultimately up to the marketer to create a brand experience that is personalized and genuine.

Get it right, make it personal. With so many options, it is important that agencies and brands work together with highly-skilled promotional professionals to create promotional marketing campaigns strategically designed with the target audience in mind—to be on brand and achieve desired outcomes.

The promotional products industry takes products people use every day and adds a brand name, a call to action or a powerful message and creates a one-of-a-kind consumer experience, an engagement, a memory—a keepsake like no other advertising.

I have been reminded after reading the Fast Company and AMA Marketing News opinion pieces that misconception and doubt remain about our industry, and I am grateful for this opportunity to state the facts. In the AMA article, PPAI was the only source quoted with evidence-based data. Follow the facts. You can find them here:

I welcome your thoughts on this topic at, and ask you to share this article with your colleagues and clients.


Todd Pottebaum, MAS+, is president of distributor Quality Resource Group, Inc., in Plymouth, Minnesota.