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Issue: Winter 2013-14

Gifting Hollywood Style

by Susan Hornik

Remember long ago, when you were a little girl/boy, attending your friend’s birthday party? Even better than getting ice cream, you probably most looked forward to getting a goody bag at the end! And while we have all grown up, the need for a gift bag hasn’t gone away—especially if you are a Hollywood celebrity! Gift bags are now an essential piece of marketing material, to be given out at high-end fundraising galas, celebrity swag suites and backstage at major awards events.

“Gift bags have become part of the cultural zeitgeist,” said Lash Fary, owner of Distinctive Assets, a niche marketing  that offers celebrity placement company, product introduction and branding opportunities within the entertainment industry.  “Everyone talks about them, knows what they are...and wants one! The popularity really stems from the win/win nature and inherent human enjoyment of free stuff...regardless of whether you are rich or not!”

“Celebrity gifting lounges are an interactive gift bag so to speak,” Fary explained. ‘Really the two entities (gift lounges and gift bags) are the same dish...just dine in versus take out.”  Vendors like L'Oréal, iHome, Solstice Sunglasses, Fujifilm, CIROC, Hasbro, Yankee Candles, 5 Gum, and Lacoste have gifted celebs in his past suites. Next up is the GRAMMYs, where Fary will have an onsite backstage official gift lounge for award presenters and performers. He will then work on gift bags for the major Oscar nominees.

“Clients could never in a million years pay $7,500 to get a big name celebrity to hold up their product for a photo, yet our company gets the client anywhere between 40-50 photos depending on the event,” acknowledged Gavin Keilly, ceo/founder of GBK Productions, a marketing,  public relations, fundraising and special events company. “Luxury brands are entering this gifting arena more and more, as they are seeing great value and the return on their investment.”

What items might we see in a gift bag? “Everything from a stay at the St Regis in Bora Bora, or Aspen, Colorado, to Diamonds, high-end skin care, to the latest fashion item, whether it be an accessory or jeans, or great candles, Keilly added. “If I had a product, I would spend my last marketing dollars in an opportunity such as this, knowing that my return would be ten times my investment, if not more!”

Gifting suites are not just about swag—at every gifting event GBK does, they give twenty percent back to charity, stated Keilly. “We allow them to have an onsite presence, so they have the opportunity to educate the celebrities and the press about the good work they are doing, in hopes of getting more people involved.”

Paul Palacios, Southern California marketing manager for Hint Water, who donates product to numerous gift bags at nonprofit events, agrees. “Gift bags are another avenue to get your product into the hands of the elite and celebrity talent. We love working with charity organizations that inspire people to exercise the gift of giving. If you are in a position where you can make a lunch bag for the homeless, inspire the youth to say ‘no’ to bullying, or give blood to local blood banks during these hard times...that's a great gift to our country during the holidays and, if you can do that year round, that makes you a hero in my eyes. This is why I constantly support charities—because seeing others smile is the best gift back in return.”

Hint Water has participated in gift bags for events like Music Saves Lives, Fashion 4 Compassion, Designers for a Cause, and the Saturn Awards.

Donating gift cards for celebrity gift bags is very helpful to budding entrepreneurs. "Putting our gift cards in various celebrity gift bags at Hollywood events has been very beneficial for my new company, Kuyam,” said founder Kourosh Gohar. “It raises awareness for us and introduces our new service, an online lifestyle scheduling platform, which otherwise the celebrity talent might not have heard of."

Recently, Kuyam gift cards were placed in gift bags at Club MomMe's Annual Family Fall Fest. "Celebrity attendees were busy moms, the perfect demographic to enjoy Kuyam's organizational services, and included the likes of actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry, Ali Landry and Jenni Pulos.

“By receiving gift cards to redeem on the Kuyam site or mobile app, the celebrities are able to book appointments at a local Hollywood spa or salon. In this way, we're helping the community, and they are getting a chance to relax,” Gohar said.

Erik Mathews, president of  DiaNoche, an illuminated art and home décor company, actually prefers doing gifting suites to placing his items into gift bags. “Just placing our gift certificate in a goody bag is not enough—as a vendor, you get more human interaction participating in a swag gifting suite with celebrities. With a company like ours that is not well known, there is less impetus for celebrities to use our gift card-- you can pass out a gift bag to 100 people and get zero feedback as to their interest or liking for a product. so being able to meet them at a celebrity suite is a must.”

DiaNoche Designs attended both Jayneoni’s Boom Boom Room and the Wounded Warrior Emmy gifting suites and donated 150 gift cards for $149 towards one of their many products.

“Because our products are so custom, we typically give out gift certificates so that the recipients can make their own selections,” said Mathews. “We offer more than 600 images to choose from and we want people to make a personal connection with the item they choose. Letting the recipients partake in their selection is the best way to gift at these events. And it gives us the opportunity to captivate our audience and hopefully gain more exposure.  The feedback from these gifting suites has been incredible and the buzz is still present.” DH