A downtown Tampa ad agency known for its campaigns for the Florida Lottery, Tire Plus Total Tire Car Care and Ashley Homestore has unwittingly found itself in the T-shirt business.
The agency is PPK. It has been in business since 2004, is nationally recognized agency and it employs 90 people. What it wasn’t, at least until recently, was a T-shirt maker.
PPK has created a line of T-shirts marking the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and selling them online — with the profits earmarked to feed hospital workers in the area.
The shirts feature the logos of several well-known brands — Netflix, the TV show Friends and Vans skateboard shoes among them — with the words vaxxed, vaccine or vaccinate in place of the more recognized name. The idea was to create T-shirts to celebrate the discovery of the vaccine and to thank employees for their work during the pandemic, says Garrett Garcia, the agency’s vice president. “It started out merely as just something cool and fun," he adds.
From there, Garcia says, the project “just kind of evolved.”
PPK first made the shirts available to employees on Bonfire.com, a website where people can design shirts to sell without having to carry a lot of inventory. The shirts were free for employees, and with such a positive response, PPK officials realized they could charge non-employees for the shirts.
But since the shirts were intended as gifts, PPK wanted to spend the money earned on the sales on a good cause. Garcia says the proceeds from the sale of a single shirt comes out to about $10 to $12. This means PPK can raise a few thousand dollars and use the money to buy box lunches from fast-casual chicken chain PDQ, a client, to deliver to local hospitals.
The shirts are also more than a way to raise money. They can send a message as well, says Paul Prato, executive creative director at PPK.
He says the shirts were originally to mark the freedom the vaccines provided after more than a year of the pandemic. But the rise of the delta variant has turned that message into a rallying cry urging people to get vaccinated. “It became an appeal. It went from celebration to appeal."
“No matter how you think of these pharmaceutical companies, it was just an amazing achievement,” Prato says. “And that’s what theses shirts are about. At this point that a year ago, we (thought it was) going to be two years before there’s a vaccine. To now be like ‘why won’t everybody get one' is just such...an amazing blessing and an achievement."
To purchase one of the shirts, visit www.bonfire.com/store/uniteppk.