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Projects to Consider for Your Anniversary Celebration


When planning a significant anniversary or celebration, producing several commemorative events and products simultaneously can be a challenge. Here are some tips that might be helpful in planning your event:

Adopt a logo
For its 100th anniversary event, the Promotional Products Association International's Centennial Committee collaborated on the logo and tag line, considering designs from member company art departments. However, in the end, we settled on a design created by PPAI's graphic designer, because it worked with all kinds of imprints, engravings, and embroidery and was as attractive on tiny items, such as pen clips, as it was on large ones, such as shirts and bags. We were also careful to create a logo that worked in black-and-white as well as two-color and four-color. The centennial logo replaced the association's regular logo for all of 2003 on everything from our letterhead to show signage. The logo and related user guidelines were made available to members through our Web site so that they could use the logo on their materials as well.

Memorialize in print
We hired our former director of marketing (who had been on PPAI's staff for 26 years) to author our historical book, and by fall 2002 he began the arduous task of collecting information. In addition to foraging through back issues of our publications, he conducted phone interviews with more than two dozen industry veterans, longtime members, and former board members.

The committee's key reason for publishing a book was to have an accurate, detailed, and printed record of the association's history--something that could be passed forward to future staff and leadership based on the old maxim: It's easier to get where you are going if you know where you've been.

Toward the committee's goal of spreading the celebration across the anniversary year, we decided not to produce the book in conjunction with our major January trade show but to debut it mid-year.

The 112-page commemorative tome took four months to produce from first draft to print with the Book/Video Subcommittee reviewing the draft--a process that proved invaluable in our quest for accuracy.

With our goal to touch as many members as possible with the centennial, we printed the book in hardcover (with four-color dustcover) and mailed it with a personalized letter to all former and current member volunteers and honorees. Soft cover copies and a letter were sent to every member company, and we sold extras of both versions in our bookstore.

Immortalize the association's history on film
Capturing our association's history on video and CD was very important to the committee. The committee members wanted a vibrant recollection that shared the fascinating story of the association's early beginnings with media and other industries and associations--some of which share similar starts.

To produce the video, we chose a company that has deftly handled general sessions and awards presentations for PPAI for many years. We initially discussed concepts and costs in summer 2002 and decided on a 15-minute video that could be shown at the opening session of our January 2003 trade show to kick off the year. A key element was our decision to use a former board member to introduce the video on screen, which made members feel even closer to the content. The company's writers produced a script, which the members of the Book/Video Subcommittee reviewed for accuracy. The actual taping in fall 2002 also featured a professional narrator and took place at our office to showcase our extensive display of vintage promotional products.

When the video was introduced at the show, the audience of thousands fell silent, then erupted in cheers and applause at the video's conclusion. It was clear that they truly felt ownership and pride in all that their industry has accomplished.

Highlight products and promotions
The Awards Subcommittee developed a competition to recognize the best promotional products of the 20th century. All member supplier companies were invited to submit an entry. Centennial Committee distributor members judged the 25 entries and selected five winners based on originality of product or process and impact on the industry. These winning products and their companies were honored at the association's annual awards presentation and given etched glass trophies purchased from a member company.

The subcommittee also conducted a similar program to identify the best promotions of the 20th century but did not receive enough entries to judge. Instead, 25 winning entries from PPAI's annual Golden Pyramid awards, a program dating back to 1990, were selected, and a photo of the winning promotion was enlarged, mounted, and displayed gallery-style near the centennial booth to depict the many successful promotions that have occurred across the years.

Exhibit historical products and ideas
Our industry is a visual one that lends itself to interesting displays. Originally the committee's idea for a mini-museum that could go on the road to a variety of industry shows was dropped, citing logistical and security problems. Working with our trade show vendor, Freeman Decorating Co., we created a 20-foot by 20-foot booth featuring 10 lockable jewelry cases to hold the products; a 10-foot, fabric-covered column to hold photos; and a full fabric-covered wall for photos on one side and an association timeline on the other. We also rented a monitor to show the video on a continuous loop.

Members lent vintage promotional products to fill the cases, and I scavenged PPAI files to find nearly 100 old images depicting PPAI's past; these were enlarged and mounted on black gator foam. In setting up the booth on site, it was easy to attach the photos to the fabric walls with hook-and-loop fasteners. The result was so engaging that the committee decided to set up the centennial booth at additional PPAI trade shows in 2003 and 2004.

Throw the party of the century
To open our centennial year, the committee envisioned a major gala with a vintage Hollywood theme complete with live band and celebrity look-a-likes--and the result was even better than we imagined. The party was held at the hotel in conjunction with our January 2003 trade show. For $25 per person (nonmember prices were $50 per person; on-site tickets were slightly higher), guests received three drink tickets; an extensive hors d'oeuvres buffet; live music by The Zippers; and entertainment by professional look-a-likes of Tina Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Steve Martin, Liza Minelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Dolly Parton, and Elvis; plus a strolling balloon artist and caricaturist. Decorations included oversized Oscar award statues and balloon and top hat centerpieces plus table favors: Elvis sunglasses, noisemakers, and imprinted napkins. As guests departed the party, they were given a gift bag of imprinted promotional products. More than 2,000 party tickets were sold.

Our biggest problem was finding a way to top it for the closing party in January 2004. The solution was to hold the Party of the Next Century off site at Studio 54 in Las Vegas, where the music, lighting, dancers, and location--an icon of '70s pop culture--proved the ticket to a second winning event.