Who Is Anji Corley, And Why Does She Love Promo?
Anji Corley has always been a lover of promotional products. And since she began working with PPAI, she’s looking at promo in a whole new way.
“You might just think it’s a simple product, but it’s not. There’s more to it than just a logo on something,” she says. “It’s very specific, intentional and thought-provoking. The community that it builds – I never really thought about it that way. To think of them as memories, they are specific to me, my community, that event or what I am doing that day.”
Last fall, Corley hosted the inaugural Promotional Products Work Expo. This premier virtual event brought promo professionals together with their end-buyer clients to explore the ever-changing industry. PPAI welcomed her back to host the PPW Expo on March 28. Dale Denham, MAS+, PPAI president and CEO, joined Corley for PPW’s spring return.
“Dale knows products inside and out. He was not only teaching me, but he’s also informing our viewers. He’s instructing us without being condescending. He’s informing us without being too scholarly,” Corley says. “It’s great professional insight on this industry, the business, products and beyond. From customers’ perspectives to vendors’ perspective to webstores and rewards versus points, it’s just an easy conversation. It really is fun, too.”
As PPAI continues to grow the Promotional Products Work initiative, the growth of the virtual shows is a key measure of progress, and the video content hosted by Corley and Denham drew rave reviews.
Corley’s connection to PPAI has expanded from virtual events to the real world. The PPAI Expo 2023 marked the event’s 20th anniversary in Las Vegas. Walking around the show floor, Corley was awestruck. “Seeing the lines, you’re wondering, ‘What are they doing over there?’ It’s like being a looky-loo during an open house or rubbernecking during an accident. It’s like, ‘I want one,’ of whatever it is. We all want to feel special and a part of something and receive something unique, useful or reflective of that moment or space you’re in. It’s so deep, but it’s not complicated.”
At The PPAI Expo, she played host to industry insiders in the Expo Live booth, interviewing promo veterans and previewing the hottest products. But what really stood out was the industry community. Corley says, “I was floored. Everyone got along. They played nice in the pool together. It’s unbelievable how many people put time and effort into creating these products, giveaways or incentivizing your staff.”
The promo industry is “not fluff,” she adds, or simply a matter of opening a catalog and ordering 500 pens.
“The community of everyone at PPAI – distributors, suppliers, guests, attendees – it is a network,” says Corley. “Every single person that I interviewed at Expo Live said the same thing: ‘We are a community. We love to see each other, get together and be wowed.’”
Corley also took the stage in Las Vegas to host the premiere of The PPAI Expo’s newest experience, “The Pitch,” a promo version of The Voice in which seven supplier contestants tried to win over a respected panel of veteran distributor judges. Illinois-based supplier S&S Activewear won with its Hero Hoodie, an easily reversible hoodie and backpack.
She says, “It was insanely fun. It was intriguing to learn why people created what they brought to the stage. Sometimes, you see something and you’re like, ‘Cool, but why?’ To hear the why or how they got there and how long it took, it is a great story.”
From “The Pitch” to Promopalooza, the industry’s biggest party at Allegiant Stadium, Corley kept the party going, even leading the way on the dance floor.
“I became the party starter,” she says. “Exciting that energy is what and who I am. The No. 1 thing I heard – and I thank everyone – was about my energy. I love to infuse whatever I am doing with positive, infectious energy, because that is truly me.”
Who Is Anji Corley?
Corley has what she calls a “slash career.” She’s an award-winning host, radio and TV personality, global brand ambassador and a travel and fashion expert. She was the co-host of national ABC series Vacation Creation, traveling around the world to give deserving people vacations of a lifetime. She also hosted Oh Baby! with Anji Corley on ABC, talking about baby animals in an educational format for families.
“Every single day of my life is unique and different,” she says. “I’ll have a shoot, then maybe it’s voiceover, then commercial work, then it’s another event, and then I’m getting ready for PPW again. It’s so unique and special, but it keeps me going. Every day, I am excited for what’s in store. Even if I have nothing going on, I am always planting seeds and meeting people. I love that my range is broad. Brand ambassador/actress/artist/creative and party starter. It just depends on what day.”
As a fashion expert, Corley knows how to represent products. She is a full-time show host and brand ambassador on the Home Shopping Network for Naturalizer/SOUL, Rhonda Shear, Beats by Dre, Serena Williams’ line and many others.
Be prepared for the next PPAI event to be “Anji-tized,” she says: “My joy is to Anji-tize things. Whatever I am doing, I bring authenticity to the project, so you’re going to get the same energy every time you see my face or hear my voice – it’s still me.”
Corley lets her personality lead her, connecting with everyone she meets. “One thing I learned a long time ago was that I can’t be anyone but me,” she says. “Sometimes, my energy might be too much. But at the end of a shoot, before they yell, ‘This is the martini shot,’ which means it’s the last shot of the day, you’d love to have my energy on staff. It’s infectious, and it brings people together.”
Making people feel good is her life’s purpose. Corley grew up as an only child in Long Island, New York. She says, “I was always playing make believe, dressing up and presenting concerts and dance routines at home. I was somewhat shy, believe it or not.”
She became a band leader in high school and gave college tours when she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. Soon, she fell in love with theater and acting, beginning her career as an actress.
“From theater, I went to radio, and that’s when you do all the grand openings and events,” Corley says. “Then boom – here I am. It’s stuck with me. I just love building excitement and including people in this party, whatever the party is, whether it’s products or an event or just life and making everybody happy.”
Why Does She Love Promo?
Corley’s first job in radio was promotions director of a station in Pittsburgh. She says, “I used to adore when TV networks, new shows or a movie premiere would give us merch. I made no money, but I had 50,000 – and still do – T-shirts and pens. Some of my favorite items are a Martin TV show jacket, a Nickelodeon denim jacket and New York Undercover merch. These are now classics, and I’ve still kept them. I have some things that don’t even work anymore that I love. I was a lover of promotional products since college.”
Today, she loves promo even more. “I still pick up things off the table or when they give away free items. It’s really evolved over the last decade. Now, I see products and I am like, ‘Wow, this is cool.’ I don’t know how distributors or suppliers come up with these ideas. They give me something I never knew I needed, then they brand it to the point where I never want to get rid of it.”
Corley says promo is truly unique. “These products are items that other people don’t have access to, so I feel special.” As a promotions director, Corley ordered promo like T-shirts, mugs and reusable bags. She’d also do movie premieres, giving away sweatshirts or fanny packs. “I’ve seen all kinds of fun times,” she says. “From dice to coloring books, I had a desk, and I was surrounded by promotional boxes. That was my life.”
Corley has quickly become entrenched in PPAI’s efforts to grow the promo marketplace and the value end-buyers feel toward branded products. For some buyers, she may already be the face of the industry. And with her contagious, life-of-the-party spirit igniting upcoming PPW Expo events, PPAI believes the virtual shows will only continue to grow.
More PPW festivities are on tap in the fall. Client audiences can expect fresh content and inspiration to help plan for their holiday buying season.
Corley says, “For any promo client taking in PPW content, I hope you know we are dedicated to informing you. We hope to open your eyes to the possibilities of promo. It’s my job to make you wonder. We also want to make you the industry insider and keep you informed about the direction of the industry.
“We want to get you excited for what’s next.”
Anji’s Favorite Promo Products
A leather-bound notebook
“I received this from a company that I did work with. For them to know how special it was to record those experiences and adventures was really nice.”
An etched glass
“I once went to a grand opening of a virtual production studio. When you went to the open bar, not only do you get a fabulous cocktail, but the glass is also etched with the logo. But inside the glass, the ice cube even had the company’s logo on it. I was like, ‘How?’ I was blown away. Something so simple made such an impact.”
A waterproof speaker
“I got this speaker in Las Vegas. It was my first PPAI Expo, and it was also a milestone for the organization, so that was special. Although I come from radio and broadcast, I don’t have a waterproof speaker. It was just what I needed.”
Valdez is an associate editor at PPAI.