In 1904 representatives of 12 promotional products manufacturers (manufacturers of advertising goods) agreed to form an industry trade association. The charter members addressed issues such as pricing, new ideas, business losses and managing salesmen, and adopted bylaws and operating procedures for the trade association. Benjamin S. Whitehead, owner of a promotional products manufacturing company in Newark, N.J., became the first president. The organization's first name was the Advertising Manufacturers Association.


By 1906 the Association had 56 members and one honorary member, Henry S. Bunting, who published the Association's official publication. Mr. Bunting's publication, along with his book about promotional products and their impact on business growth, contributed greatly to the recognition of the industry. In 1912 the Advertising Federation of America designated ad specialties as a legitimate advertising medium. Tradeshows became part of the Association's conventions in 1914, with 32 exhibitors at the first show. The PPAI Expo—the industry's premier tradeshow—is held each January in Las Vegas. It has become the place to be for promotional products professionals and companies to grow their business, build their network and increase their sales!


In 1928 the Association celebrated its 25th anniversary with more than 132 members. 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. The industry was hit hard during the depression, but in the late 1940s business was again booming, with industry sales figures of $124 million recorded in 1947. In 1961 the Association began offering Executive Development seminars. In response to their popularity, the Association has continued to offer educational seminars to assist members with new ways to make their businesses more profitable and effective.


In 1966 membership was 1,211, and the number of exhibitors that year was more than 300. Today, as our multi-billion dollar industry grows, we're proud to boast 8,000 member companies!



While a majority of the Association's 10,000+ member firms (based on 2011 figures) are located in the United States, membership includes firms in Canada and throughout the world. Most member companies are suppliers and distributors of promotional products and services, including specialty advertising, business gifts, premiums, incentives, awards, prizes and commemoratives.

PPAI membership break down:

  • Distributor members: 68%
  • Supplier members: 26%
  • International members: 4%
  • Other: 2%



The Promotional Products Association International advocates the power and value of promotional products in the marketing and advertising professions to ensure the success of its members and the global industry.


 We Serve Our Members Best By Serving Our Industry First