November 3, 2003, Trevose, PA — Not one to shy away from controversy, ASI President, Tim Andrews was true to form as the guest speaker at a recent SACDV dinner meeting when he gave his initial impressions of the promotional products industry.
The SACDV attendees comprised a diverse group of Delaware Valley suppliers and distributors who quickly picked up on Andrews' openness.
His first impression was that this is an industry in which many small companies and families are invested, and the business is their livelihood. "They're not playing with other people’s money," Andrews said. At the same time, it's fun. "I've never been in an industry where everyone seems to have a good time," he said.
He also covered potential threats to current industry practices, such as suppliers selling directly to end-buyers, and distributors directly importing. He explained how this puts everyone in the industry in a competitive situation – distributors, suppliers and industry service providers. "We're nervous and I think we ought to be, honestly. Stay paranoid, don't get paralyzed – there's a big difference," he said.
He told the SACDV audience that ASI is focusing on efforts to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) for promotional product advertising.
During the question and answer portion of the presentation, there was no dearth of raised hands – and no wishy-washy comments.
What changes is Andrews implementing at ASI? Better customer service is his top priority. He expects to solve 80% of customers' problems in their first phone call.
Andrews addressed the controversy surrounding his September editorial in The Counselor when he said the UPIC system of numbering could undermine the credibility of the industry. Knowledge of Andrews' controversial statement led a member of the audience to ask if ASI would permit suppliers to print their UPIC numbers along with their ASI numbers on their catalogs. "They're your catalogs," replied Andrews. "I have my opinions, but if you want to run UPIC numbers, that's up to you." And, he promised to continue open discussions with PPAI and its leadership. He also guaranteed to keep an open mind while listening to industry insiders who have issues and concerns. "I don't really shy away from controversy and honesty," he stated. “You’ll always know where I stand – and I want to know where you stand.”
On the question of too many shows, he provided data to support the fact that attendance at the major shows indicates otherwise. According to industry research, only four percent of the people who attend the ASI Show! in Las Vegas also go to the PPAI show in Vegas.
He also stated that ASI surveys show 76% of suppliers don’t want non-North American suppliers at trade shows, and ASI follows that practice. PPAI, Andrews noted, doesn’t follow industry preference in that regard.
"Why does ASI let peripheral industries, such as printers and embroiderers, become members?" asked one participant. Andrews said he welcomes suppliers of services as well as suppliers of products, as long as they fill the criteria for ASI membership.
When asked why ASI says it has stricter standards for membership than PPAI, Andrews responded, "We do have stricter standards, which isn't to say PPAI doesn't have standards, too. Some people think ours are too strict. Some think they're not strict enough. I feel we have built in just enough hurdles."
As the evening drew to a close, Andrews encouraged the audience to contact him with future questions and comments via his personal email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
According to Jacque Zakorchemny, of Friendliness Inc., “Tim was very refreshing and extremely approachable. He put his thoughts on the industry right out there and handled audience questions with candor but diplomacy. I liked him, and I liked his vision for the future.”
Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) is the single-largest trade information center for the promotional products industry, with a membership of 20,000 Distributors (sellers) and Suppliers (manufacturers) of promotional products. Suppliers use ASI print and electronic resources to promote their products to more than 17,000 ASI Distributors. Distributors use ASI print and electronic resources, which contain more than 650,000 promotional products, to locate Supplier products and to promote their services to buyers of promotional products. ASI was founded in 1950 and employs a staff of 500. The company offers catalogs, informational directories, newsletters, magazines, websites, and databases, and provides a variety of interactive business, marketing and selling tools.