Never say “no” to a request, and always strive to have a solution. This simple philosophy has served PPD&G president Jonathan Rovner well since he founded his full-service branding company 23 years ago, and it applies equally to the local pizza parlor and the world’s most prominent luxury brands.
“We work with clients in all industries to create an endless variety of custom printing, packaging, displays and gifts,” Rovner says. “Over the years, we have developed a strong presence in prestige brands such as Bloomingdale’s, Cartier, Creed, Microsoft, and Prada, to name a few. And we continue to expand the breadth and depth of our expertise so we can offer a multitude of solutions to accommodate all of our clients.”
Printing, the first “P” in PPD&G, encompasses posters, presentation boxes, invitations and other marketing materials. The second “P,” packaging, refers to rigid products such as luxury gift boxes and corrugated boxes with soft-touch lamination, and flexible items including retail shopping bags. Banners using all kinds of materials, point-of-purchase displays composed of acrylic, wood, and metal and floor unit displays for high-end fragrances such as Marc Jacobs Perfect all fall under “D” for displays. And “G” is for gifts that commemorate events or incentivize customers to buy something – or buy more of something.
Most projects are engineered, prototyped and manufactured in one of PPD&G’s three Long Island, NY, manufacturing facilities in Farmingdale, Hauppauge and Deer Park. Rovner is exploring opportunities to consolidate these sites into a larger space that could even double the current 100,000-square foot operation.
“We’ve experienced tremendous growth,” he says. “For 23 years, even through the Great Recession of 2008, and even now during COVID-19, we’ve grown every year.” Housed in those facilities is a veritable wonderland of technology. Printers alone include the 40" conventional Mitsubishi press, the newest additions of two narrow web HP Indigo 6900 digital presses for labels and packaging, 12 dye-sublimation printers with 63" transfer presses for fabric, two large-format 98" UV flatbed printers, a 10" flatbed, four Epson large-format inkjet machines, many screen printers, and more than 15 pad printers for printing on items of unusual shapes such as pens and fragrance caps. The remarkable array of equipment also includes machinery for diecutting, hot stamping, embossing, metal fabrication, gluing and mounting.
“We work differently,” Rovner says simply. “Beyond traditional projects such as printing pressure sensitive labels, we also do things like using special optically clear adhesives to mount films in front of or behind acrylic for a gorgeous, upscale look that’s integrated into signs and displays. We’ll take on just about any job. We may not be experts in a specific end product, but we’re experts in so many processes, it’s just a matter of bringing it all together to create whatever a customer wants.”
Digital printing is a key element of that inclusive approach, allowing for the production of both large and small quantities.
“The world of digital printing allows us to offer as few as one or two pieces, which isn’t always cost-effective, but the option is there,” Rovner says. “We produce fancy boxes used for influencer gifts, and our clients may need as few as a few hundred pieces. We do prototyping of just a couple of samples, or millions of items printed with variable data. When Hugo Boss needed 10 boxes that would look identical to the final mass-produced version, including embossing and foil stamping, we did it, and it looked the same as if we had produced 10 million. It’s rare a client asks us to do something that we can’t deliver exactly what they’re looking for.”
Rovner enthusiastically credits his employees for allowing PPD&G to thrive, even through the challenges of a worldwide health crisis.
“Their shared collaboration, inspiration and passion make us unique, because when you’re passionate about something, that’s what sells the job,” he says. “Prior to COVID-19, we had about 375 people. Now we’re down to about 330 as we have focused on operating thinly to be safe, but we intend to bring the majority back to do what they love here. We’ve been deemed an essential business during COVID, and we have been producing face masks, intubation boxes and kit packaging, and millions of hand sanitizer bottle labels. We actually purchased industrial sewing machines, and we have 11 people making custom masks all day long. When the economy and industry zig, you have to zag. It speaks to our determination to win more jobs, even while it seems like the world is coming to an end, by always increasing our flexibility.”
That flexibility comes to life throughout each project’s lifecycle, including ensuring the highest possible levels of sustainable manufacturing from sourcing environmentally responsible raw goods to disposing of waste in compactors and segregated dumpsters earmarked for recycling.
“We’re always looking for the newest in sustainable materials, and as time goes by, there are more and more options,” Rovner notes. “Reducing our carbon footprint is more important than ever, for our clients, who often won’t accept anything other than a sustainable solution, and for us as responsible corporate citizens. I like that challenge – it’s not always easy, but it has to be reckoned with, and it’s for the betterment of our world.”
Embracing challenges has been Rovner’s standard since he launched PPD&G in 1997 from the basement of the 900-square-foot house he was renting with his future wife. He began as a distributor, then branched out into production when his vendors didn’t always share his customer-first approach.
“I wanted to work with the best, whether it was a local retailer or Christian Dior,” Rovner recalls. “I’d get excited about an order, make a phone call to a vendor, and if it was close to 5 o’clock, some would ask if I could call tomorrow. In my mind, they should have stayed 10 minutes to take the order. I wanted to help everyone and lend our creative expertise to everybody, and I soon realized the only way to do that was to have a much higher degree of control.”
He started with a small color printer, which he now describes as a glorified color copier, and evolved from there based on client needs, purchasing equipment and adding to his scope of capabilities.
“I’d walk door to door, get a slice of pizza, and talk with the restaurant manager or owner about doing shirts or aprons,” he says. “I’d send spiral-bound presentations to presidents and vice presidents at companies like Coca-Cola that I had no business doing business with at the time, and once in a while, we’d get an order. I knew the only way we would grow is if we promised big results and then delivered, and that’s what we did, and what we still do.”
PPD&G is now preparing to take that trailblazing approach a step further into its own marketing.
“Early on, when a client asked me to make a sample, if I thought it could be better, I’d go ahead and enhance it, but clients still wanted to see what they asked for, so I changed what I was doing,” Rovner says. “I’d make a sample exactly as requested and add a second sample reflecting what I thought it could be. Probably 90-95% of the time, clients would go with what we suggested, even if it was over budget. It’s been a huge aspect of our success. This has all been while we’ve operated as a very reactive company creating solutions for our clients’ requests. We’re going to keep doing that, but 2021 is going to mark a very important change, with a more proactive style. We’re going to allocate design and engineering time to present our clients with samples and renderings of ideas we feel will help them grow.”
It all comes back to Rovner’s unwavering focus on never saying “no” and always finding solutions for his customers. “We know we have their trust, and they value our opinion,” he says. “Today, the largest company we deal with has been a customer for 18 years, and I have a lot of pride in that. It’s an ego boost to walk into a store and see our work, and know we had a direct impact on something that’s being enjoyed by the world. Loving what you do, and being excited about customer needs, brings success for everyone – customers and PPD&G alike. At PPD&G, we get to be creative every single day. Processes overlap, but every job is completely different, and anything is possible. Our prospects for the next 23 years are at least as exciting as they were 23 years ago.”