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One Year In, Denham Addresses PPAI’s Progress, Challenges And Goals

17 Aug 2022 3:48 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

On the eve of Dale Denham’s one-year anniversary as PPAI president and CEO, he presented in front of many of the industry’s top leaders at the North American Leadership Conference (NALC) in a “Fireside Chat” about the challenges and progress the Association has faced, while offering plans for the future.

It was fitting that Denham’s first year capped at NALC. One of the earliest calls that Denham had to make, after joining PPAI on Aug. 16, 2021, was to cancel the 2021 NALC due to a COVID-19 spike. It was one of the most difficult decisions of his tenure, but it was likely not his most important. A few months later, with COVID-19 still affecting plans around the country, Denham moved forward with The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, an in-person return in January of 2022 that the industry sorely needed after two years apart.

Denham also addressed significant staff reductions that took place during the pandemic, before he arrived at PPAI, and the many hirings and promotions over the past year that have begun to counter those reductions. Denham, of course, is only the most notable addition representing the new direction of the industry’s non-profit Association.

“The people are changing,” says Denham. “PPAI is changing.”

In some ways, the most visible changes have been to branding and marketing, such as advancement to the Association’s content and media offerings. These initiatives are designed to allow PPAI to be recognized as the voice of the industry. But much of the focus that Denham has guided the Association toward represent a different way of looking at things.

This particular moment in the industry, following the disruption caused by the pandemic, required a PPAI leader who would direct the Association toward something beyond business as usual. Denham’s time in the promotional products market, including his previous role as senior vice president and CIO at distributor Geiger, suggested he planned to push PPAI toward more.

“We are not going to sit still,” Denham said Monday. “You will see a lot of changes.”

With company leaders listening, Denham also addressed Promo Data Exchange (PDX), what he described as “the most unpopular change that we announced.” PDX’s goals, which run parallel to industry tool PromoStandards, ruffled some feathers upon its announcement.

“We both share the same vision,” Denham says. “We want to get rid of all those phone calls. We want to stop errors. We just have different strategies. Some of you have different opinions on what we are doing with Promo Data Exchange. We are doing it because we believe we have a strategy that is going to help solve a problem, and we continue to talk to PromoStandards and look for ways to work together for the good of the industry.”

In spite of some resistance to PDX, Denham confirmed PPAI’s commitment to streamlining future business, and the Association’s hope to lead the industry into tools and possibilities that will push it forward.

“We are committed to digital transformation for the industry,” Denham said. “We are going to drive digital transformation.”

In evaluating potential leaders for the Association, PPAI's Board of Directors highlighted figures who could push the industry toward improved technological solutions.

"It is hard to believe a year has passed since Dale took the helm at PPAI," says board chair Dawn Olds, MAS+. "His vision and passion for Association staff, members, and the industry are at the core of all he does. On behalf of the entire PPAI board, I thank him for the leadership he has provided this past year and look forward to seeing the seeds of success he has started to plant blossom."

Denham concluded his Monday remarks by stating that CSR was “perhaps the most important thing for this industry” and that it has been mandated by the PPAI Board of Directors to be a top priority, while teasing that new plans and ways to drive progress in that area will be developed at the Product Responsibility Summit in September.

Digital transformation, CSR and the Promotional Products Work campaign – with its first buyer-facing event set for Sept. 29 - are the three pillars to what PPAI is focusing on going forward under Denham’s leadership.

“Our mission is to be the force and the voice to advance the promotional products marketplace for the benefit of our community,” Denham says. “Our members are the community. The marketplace is everyone who is buying or selling promotional products. We want everyone in the community. We’re working for the whole marketplace.”

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