On November 20, 1903, leaders from nine promotional products manufacturers (then
called novelty and specialty goods) met to discuss the formation of an industry
trade association. The group came together again in May 1904, to formalize the
formation of an industry trade association. The minutes from that first meeting
indicate that much animosity was evident and little consensus of ideas was
present. The 12 charter members in attendance had very different ideas of what
an association should accomplish for them, including such issues as price
maintenance, networking, strengthening business and managing/improving salesmen.
In spite of the differences on vision, a motion was presented and accepted, and
they formed the Advertising Novelty Manufacturers Association, though there was
even disagreement on the actual name. Benjamin S. Whitehead, owner of Whitehead
& Hoag, Co., a promotional products manufacturing company in Newark, N.J., was
elected the first president. Dues of $2 per firm was instituted, primarily to
cover the costs of the first meeting. Over the next year, the new Association
met twice and adopted bylaws and operating procedures.
To be a member of the Association, the following eligibility requirements were
"All firms, persons or corporations who are legitimately engaged in the actual
manufacture and sale of advertising novelties and who have a regularly organized
sales department selling to the consumer and employing not less than 5 regular
salesmen on the road and 20 employees in the factory shall be eligible for
membership in the Association, subject to the recommendation of the membership
committee and the approval of their recommendation by the Association."
Within two years (1906), the Association had 56 members, with eligibility
relaxing to include those who manufactured materials used by the companies who
produced the "novelties." There was also one honorary member, Henry S. Bunting,
who published the Association's official publication. Though some objected to
allowing the press into the meetings, it was determined that Mr. Bunting's
publication, "The Novelty News," was a major contribution to the recognition of
In 1910, Bunting wrote a book, "Specialty Advertising—The New Way to Build
Business." This book was the first to define specialty advertising, as well as
explaining how ad specialties are used in the medium. It is considered a
The year of 1912 saw several major accomplishments for the Association. The
proponents of the word "novelty" as a description of the products were out voted
and all use of the word was removed from the materials of the Association. In
addition, the Association changed its name to the National Association of
Advertising Specialty Manufacturers. This decision was rewarded that same year
when the Advertising Federation of America officially recognized ad specialties
as a legitimate advertising medium and accepted the newly named association as a
department of the AFA.
For the first years, the pattern of meeting twice a year was maintained, though
trade shows were not part of the early meetings. Time was spent in discussions
of the various facets of the industry, including such topics as order-taking,
cost accounting and debt collections.
Trade shows became part of the Association's conventions in 1914, with 32
exhibitors at the first show, though the records don’t show who visited the
booths, since association membership still did not include the "jobbers," those
who sold the products. By 1920, the Association did include jobber members, the
name had been changed to Advertising Specialty Association and the Association
had its first full-time paid executive secretary. There were now 13 different
membership categories, including Advertising Specialty Manufacturers Selling to
Jobbers, Cloth Specialty Manufacturers, Calendar Jobbers, Exclusive Calendar
Manufacturers and Leather Specialty Manufacturers.
In 1928 the Association celebrated its 25th anniversary with more than 132
members, and employed full-time paid staff and published a bi-monthly journal,
the ASA Journal, which was sent to all member firms. Now an influential trade
association, the Association had accomplished many things in its first 25 years
including uniformity in terms and trade practices and establishing advertising
specialties as an advertising medium and the production of a film, entitled
"Secrets," about specialty advertising. The success of the film also prompted
two additional films, "The Secrets of Success" and "The Way to Success."
The industry was hit hard during the depression, adversely affecting business
and depleting the membership and attendance at the twice-yearly conventions. In
the midst of the recession and declining membership, the Association once again
changed the name, becoming the Advertising Specialty National Association (ASNA)
in 1933. In 1934, during the governments efforts to recover from the depression,
the jobbers organized into the Advertising Specialty Jobbers Association, formed
in federation with the specialty manufacturers in ASNA.
Business eventually picked up significantly, with industry sales figures of $124
million recorded in 1947. The 1950s saw the emergence of dissension within the
Association, with the jobber members voicing their concerns that the Association
was not responsive enough to their needs. This dissatisfaction began the
discussion of the formation of a new Association, separate from ASNA. This came
to fruition in 1953 with the organization of the Advertising Specialty Guild,
for those who sell promotional products (later called distributors). This group
grew to more than 500 distributor members and held their own trade shows,
produced a sales manual for the selling of promotional products, formed local
chapters and created the Supplier of the Year award.
In 1958, ASNA instituted the "Outstanding Use of Advertising Specialties in
Business Promotions Awards Competition," which would later become the Golden
Pyramid Awards for distributors. The 1960s saw ASNA begin a commitment to
education and professional development which continues to the present. In 1961
the Association began offering Executive Development seminars, through which
participants could receive the Certified Advertising Specialty (CAS)
designation. In response to their popularity, the Association has continued to
offer educational seminars to assist members with new ways to make their
business more profitable and effective.The CAS designation would also be
expanded and, along with the Master Advertising Specialty (MAS), is recognized
today as the sign of professional development within the industry.
In 1966 membership was 1,211 and the number of exhibitors that year was more
than 300. In April of 1965, two associations—ASNA and the Advertising Specialty
Guild--joined to form the Specialty Advertising Association (SAA), the
culmination of discussion that had been going on for almost 15 years. The
transition was not easy, but successful.
In 1971 the word "International" was added, becoming Specialty Advertising
Association International (SAAI); the membership was now 1,351. And it was in
1976 that the Association broke with tradition and held one of the two annual
trade shows in Dallas, rather than both being in Chicago. This was also the
debut year of Specialty Advertising Business (now PPB), the official journal of
the Association and the establishment of the Specialty Advertising Hall of Fame
to give permanent recognition to individuals "whose selfless efforts and
devotion to the industry are monumental."
In May of 1978, the Association adopted a recommendation from the Long Range
Planning Committee to relocate the Association’s headquarters from Chicago to
Irving, Texas, near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The SAAI Board
also voted to purchase a two-acre site for the construction of a headquarters
building, which was dedicated in 1979 The current facilities were completed in
1990. Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) adopted its new name
in 1993 to reflect the broader spectrum of products and services offered by
members. The PPAI Expo, held each year in January in Dallas, Texas, is oldest
and largest trade show in the industry. Membership in the Association stands at
PPAI will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a year-long series of events and
programs beginning at The PPAI Expo 2003 in January and culminating 12 months
later at The PPAI Expo 2004.
All content relating the promotional products industry as a whole, professional certifications, and industry research is courtesy of and copyright the Promotional Products Association International, all rights reserved and is used by permission.