Hollywood swag on the decline

Golden Globes to host a lighter gift of grab

The economy is a real drag on swag.

It’s definitely the time of year for freebies, with at least six Golden Globes gifting suites scheduled over the weekend.

But organizers say putting the events together during the financial freefall has been a mighty challenge.

“We have about 10 (fewer) sponsors than usual, and a lot of people have asked for discounts,” said Kari Feinstein, who runs the Kari Feinstein Lounge at a private venue in West Hollywood with her partner Mike McGuiness.

Besides giving out free products, vendors also must pay a fee to participate in the suites.

Gavin Keilly said he has seen a decline in vendor participation, noting that this year his annual GBK Prods. Gift Suite in Beverly Hills will have 32 vendors, compared with the 50 he had two years ago.

More important to an image-obsessed industry, there’s also the risk of a backlash. In hard times, a photo of a star holding up a free pair of jeans in People magazine may rub some consumers, especially those recently laid off, the wrong way. To help deal with this dilemma, organizers have teamed with different charities hoping stars will be more willing to fetch freebies for a good cause.

At the “Access Hollywood” “Stuff You Must …” lounge produced by On 3 Prods. at the Sofitel Hotel, stars just need to show up and one of the vendors, CVS/pharmacy, will donate money on their behalf to either the Best Buddies charity or the Lollipop Theater Network.

The Kari Feinstein Lounge will benefit the Visual Impact Now org, while the GBK Prods. gifting suite will donate 20% of its proceeds to four nonprofits — Isaiah Washington’s Gondobay Manga Foundation, Homeless Not Toothless, Educating Young Minds and Hollywood Note Foundation.

“It helps the celebrities feel good about going to the gift lounges,” said Samantha Haft-Simon, co-founder of On 3 Prods., who has paired up suites with charities in past years. “It makes them feel like they are there for a good reason.”

Britt Johnson, CEO of Mediaplacement, which runs the HBO Luxury Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel, pointed out that gifting suites can actually become more enticing to vendors during rough economic times.

“Marketers have to be as smart as possible with their dollars,” Johnson said. “The cost of giving out product at a suite is still less expensive than paying for one celebrity appearance fee. This way vendors will meet over 100 celebrities and get photos with them and their products.”

But will they?

It remains to be seen if celebs will back out to avoid sending the wrong message or if they will continue to bag their swag but shy away from the cameras.

Last year, organizers didn’t have it any easier after the Golden Globes were canceled at the last minute due to the writers strike, leaving many suites scrambling.

“It’s always something with Golden Globes,” Keilly said.

McGuiness echoed the sentiment. “This year the pain in the ass is equal but different.”

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