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Wed, Mar 27, 2002 - Page 21 News List

Stars use Oscars to plug products

MARKETING MADNESS The annual film award event is used by the fashion sector and a host of other industries for a range of subtle and not so subtle promotion schemes

REUTERS , LOS ANGELES

Model Petra poses for photographers at the Vanity Fair Oscar party at Morton's in Los Angeles on Sunday. A wide range of businesses use the Oscar awards to plug their products.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The Oscars represented many firsts on Sunday. Among them: Halle Berry wore Jimmy Choo shoes! Whoopi Goldberg wore red, crystal-studded Hush Puppies! Judi Dench wore Victoria's Secret diamond-encrusted underwear!

Stop the presses!

The stars took the spotlight at the 74th annual Academy Awards but product placement ruled the day. In the weeks leading up to the film industry's most prestigious awards more companies than ever blew into town to aggressively promote products.

Companies such as Estee Lauder Companies Inc and Chanel, Diageo Plc's Bacardi and even General Motors Corp's Cadillac division holed up in fruit-and-flower laden suites of Hollywood's poshest hotels offering stars a chance to peruse their products and take home free samples.

Bacardi created the "ultra-hip," 1970s themed "Bacardi O Lounge" at the L'Hermitage where they served free mixed drinks to all who entered, including reporters, stars and socialites.

The stars, in turn, walked off with cosmetics, skincare products, US$10,000 spa packages, digital cameras, sunglasses, perfumes, US$5,000 bras from Victoria's Secret featuring removable diamond straps that doubled as necklaces, expensive wristwatches .

Phew!

Even La-Z-Boy got into the act this year, offering stars certificates for free recliners. Tempur-Pedic, Inc. was giving away free US$1,700 mattresses. (Made from exclusive Tempur material, the mattresses were originally designed for the NASA space program and are designed to mold to a person's size and shape, according to the company's press release.)

"If you go to the Peninsula or L'Hermitage every single accessory and makeup and handbag and shoe and mouthwash and shampoo company is using the Oscars to sell their products. It's like a giant shopping mall and all the stars go over there and get freebies," said Elizabeth Snead, entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News.

"And then the publicists e-mail the press to say the stars are using their products and the companies get publicity. It's a vicious cycle," Snead said.

The media is on the take too. Reporters walk away with a range of gifts from mascara, shampoo, bathrobes, makeup samples and free facials at elaborate spa packages in the case of some celebrity television commentators.

One publicist who wished to remain anonymous said there is an A and B list of reporters. "We wouldn't give the same gift to a reporter, say from Baltimore, as we would to someone, say, from a New York magazine," the publicist said.

But the marketing madness does not stop there.

Every single Oscar party this week, Snead said, received backing from an automaker. Therefore one could spot Cadillacs, BMWs, Chryslers, and Mercedes Benz autos parked in the midst of the poshest Oscar fetes.

And the stars are human. While once they were known to steal ashtrays from Swifty Lazar's Oscar parties, pilfering is no longer necessary they now receive thousands of dollars, and in many cases millions of dollars worth of merchandise, said stylist Phillip Bloch, who dressed best actress winner Halle Berry for the Oscars and personally received "huge boxes" filled with promotional products.

"We've gotten so much amazing loot this week. Kodak digital cameras, palm pilots, invites from the spas, sunglasses, Hanes hosiery has sent the biggest box you have ever seen in your life, it comes past my waist, almost as high as I am, filled with hosiery for all my clients," Bloch said.

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