Agency gifts: the good, the bad and goldfish

In this anonymous guest post, a media agency has some advice for media owners on the sort of gifts they like – and do not like – to receive.

I came into work on Sunday to discover the result of a media owner’s promo gift gone wrong – a dead gold fish.

On the side of the bowl containing said dead fish was written: ‘Be the big fish in a small pond and come test the water’. Not a good look for Advantage SA, which is trying to promote South Australia as an attractive place to advertise.

We get a deluge of gifts this time of year, although not all smell quite as bad. As agency folk, we are forever grateful for the generosity of media owners. But here are some helpful tips on what we see as the good, the bad and the useless corporate gifts.


These gifts aren’t generally glamorous but they’ll be put to use and keep your brand top of mind.

1) Coffee mugs

Anything that saves an agency spending their own money is a winner, they’ll last longer than your branding will.

2) Pens

See above for saving money, cuteness is a bonus.

3) Notepads

They will get used, so go ahead and include your deadlines or basic info.

4) USBs

These things are damn expensive and this one from Nova is especially cute and clever.

Good, but you only need one

We’re reaching saturation point on some items.

1) Mouse Pads

Putting the outdoor companies posting periods on these was a stroke of genius, unfortunately now they all do it and only one mouse pad can win!

2) Keep Cups

Great idea but if everyone owns eleven of them doesn’t that somehow negate the environmentally sound intent?

Timeless winners

Though it is no-longer the glory days of the 1980s, some things never change.

1) Booze

Nuff said.

2) Food

No picture available as it was already devoured. Though any female in an agency will tell you she wishes there were some more lower calorie options.

Novelty items

1) Oversized novelty sunglasses

As one senior agency staffer said when the promo girls tried to put this on her desk, “I don’t want your landfill.”

2) Stress Balls

Yes, we are stressed and these aren’t helping (though this one was tied to a races invite so it’s forgiven).

3) True Blood

Given that most agency folk are fans of the show this item became a status symbol in itself. But had it been for a less demographically relevant TV show would we have loved it so much?

The dead end

1) Live animals

In case any media owner was gearing up to puppies for Christmas, let us point out that any gift which ultimately leads to the recipient flushing it down the toilet in rotting form is not the best association for your brand. A USB memory stick contained in a plastic fish floating in the bowl would have had the same visual effect, a longer lifetime and not stunk out the office.


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