Over the holidays, I was catching up on my reading and a headline on Forbes.com caught my attention: Advertising As We Know It Is Dead.

For a moment I had déjà vu as memories of similar headlines a few years ago about print flooded back. But as I read the article, I realized contributor Larry Light might really be onto something. What he said made it clearer than ever why people have an almost fanatical attraction to promotional products and what makes their appeal so strong.

Citing the financial challenges of two large advertising agency holding companies, Publicis and WPP, and M&C Saatchi’s stock taking a nose dive, Light explained his take on the issue. “The existing advertising agency model that brought us iconic, memorable campaigns, is being upended,” he wrote. “Google, Facebook, the large consulting firms, mobile phones, shrinking attention spans, digital dominance and ‘data-everywhere’ are changing the very nature of how brands communicate to customers.”

“Hmmm,” I thought with a smile. That’s why promotional products have stood the test of time going back well over 100 years, and why their use and popularity has continued to grow while traditional media has struggled. Promotional products are useful, relevant and remind the user of a memorable experience or favorite brand.

Light’s article went on to state that, aside from continuous brand campaigns like those from Nike (Just do it) or McDonald’s (I’m lovin’ it), advertising messages are now “short-lived, disposable throw-aways meant to capture someone’s attention for a moment and then disappear in the ether.”

In contrast, PPAI research has shown that 81 percent of people who receive promotional products not only keep them for more than a year but eight in 10 recipients remember the message and nine in 10 remember the brand. Plus, our research shows that 82 percent of recipients have a more favorable impression of a brand when it uses promotional products, eight in 10 recipients like receiving promotional products and seven in 10 wish they received them more often. I doubt those stats are ever associated with a TV commercial or internet ad.

As promotional professionals, you know that the products you recommend are strategic marketing tools that can create powerful results but, ultimately, it is what buyers think that really matters. And the good news is the feedback from buyers is pretty positive, contributing to a steady rise in distributor sales over the past 10 years with record-setting totals to boot.

While other types of advertising are looking for ways to remain relevant and memorable, the fact that promotional products touch all five senses and are associated with positive experiences are easily key reasons why this medium continues to evolve and remain strong.

This month’s cover story reveals the details about nine Pyramid-winning promotions to inspire your creativity. But what’s also interesting about most of these promotions is that they incorporate other types of media—web, social media, email, video, direct mail, radio and print—to maximize reach and effectiveness in achieving the clients’ goals. Read more about these award-winning promotions in this month’s issue.

Speaking of inspiration, last month’s PPAI Expo 2020 was another unbeatable opportunity to see our medium in action and discover fresh ideas in products and promotions. The buzz of activity on the show floor, the hundreds of new product releases and the endless excitement about the year ahead were refreshing and refueled my optimism about the unlimited potential and longevity of our ad medium.


Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.