For the actors and directors attending the Oscars on Sunday night (Feb. 28), it’s an honor just to have been nominated. But they’re also eligible for more than $232,800 worth of free swag—if they want it.
The Oscar gift bag is a well-known perk of being in the running for Hollywood’s biggest award, even though it hasn’t been part of the official festivities since 2006. That’s the year the Academy, under scrutiny from the IRS, discontinued its custom of giving out lavish, tax-free gifts. But Distinctive Assets, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm, has carried on the practice independently. The bags, however, aren’t about rewarding nominees. They’re an advertising opportunity for interested companies, and this year’s bag is the biggest ever, at more than a quarter-million dollars in retail value.
The range of products and prices in its “Everyone Wins” 2016 Nominee Gift Bag, which it will offer to the 25 nominees in acting and directing this year—plus host Chris Rock—is dizzying. There’s a Haze Vaporizer that costs $250, and a 10-day, all-expenses paid trip to Israel, from ExploreIsrael.com, worth $55,000. There is also Chapstick and a Mission1 protein bar, both valued at $6. Not least of all is a donation of 10,000 meals to the animal shelter or rescue of the nominee’s choice, sponsored by Freekibble.com and Halo, Purely for Pets, a company that makes holistic pet products.
There are oddities, too. Recipients get a Vampire Breast Lift, valued at $1,900, which uses “blood-derived growth factors to revive rounder cleavage,” as well as an ultrasound-based plastic surgery treatment costing $5,530. Also included is a two-month supply of toilet paper from Joseph’s Toiletries, apparently worth $275. And there’s Nuelle Fiera “Arouser for Her,” which is described as “not a sexy toy” but a health and wellness product that uses “suction and vibration” to stimulate arousal.
The Academy isn’t exactly friendly with Distinctive Assets. It previously asked the company to make clear that it has no affiliation with the Academy, and earlier this month, filed a lawsuit against Distinctive Assets alleging trademark infringement. It says Distinctive Assets is misleading people into thinking the bags are distributed by the Academy with slogans such as “Everyone Wins At The Oscars®! Nominee Gift Bags.” But Distinctive Assets contends it has always made clear they are not associated.
Which makes you wonder how Distinctive Assets delivers all this stuff, since it’s not like it can just leave a bag on someone’s seat.
According to the company, it sends the goodies to the nominees’ homes and offices the day after the Oscars—in luggage. “Sometimes it takes a couple roller duffel bags in fact,” the spokesperson told Quartz. They do it after as a consolation prize to the losers, though this year, for the first time, winners can get the bags, too. In 13 years, Distinctive Assets, which also gives out bags for other award shows, says Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh is the only person to turn down a bag. Some celebrities may give away the bags, or auction them for charity, and many of the products probably go unused—not that it matters. The bags are, above all, a marketing ploy.
The items are all donated by the companies, which pay for the privilege. The entry level fee to Distinctive Assets for all its work in assembling, distributing, and publicizing the bags is $4,000, but there are more expensive promotional levels, too.
The value of the bags, meanwhile, keeps ticking upward. Last year, it was $168,000, and 21 went out, for a total of more than $2.5 million in combined freebies. The year before, the value was $80,000, a pittance compared to this year’s haul.
“The increase in value is directly attributable to the addition of high-value vacation packages in recent years that we didn’t include early on,” Lash Fary, founder of Distinctive Assets, tells Quartz. “This year’s unusually high value of over $200,00 was a happy accident based on some amazing big-ticket items like the ExploreIsrael.com vacation ($55,000), Lizora ($31,200), and the Walk Japan Tour ($54,000).”
If Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t win an Oscar this year, he can comfort himself by vaping his way across Japan on a walking tour, fueled by personalized M&Ms and Hydroxycut gummies—all with perfectly moisturized lips, courtesy of Chapstick.
Here’s every item in Distinctive Assets’ 2016 gift bag:
|Haze Dual Vaporizer||$250|
|A 10,000-meal donation made in the nominee’s name to an animal shelter or rescue of their choice||$6,300|
|A lifetime supply of Pu-erh Tea Nourishing Cream and Pu-erh Tea Cleansing Bar||$31,200|
|A year’s worth of Audi car rentals from Silvercar||$45,000|
|10-day all-expenses-paid trip to Israel||$55,000|
|Tribute video services||$125|
|Caolion Ultimate Pore Care gift set||$134|
|Healing Saint Luminosity skin serum and hair follicle stimulant||$193|
|Private 15-day walking tour of Japan||$54,000|
|10 personal training sessions with Alexis Seletzky||$900|
|Belldini gift certificate||$300|
|Chocolatines Drunken Fig Cake Bites||$35|
|Dandi Patch anti-perspirant solution||$21|
|Delovery gift basket||$2,000|
|Fit Club TV “Ultimate Fitness Package”||$6,250|
|Gleener on the Go||$12|
|3-day stay at the Golden Door Resort & Spa in San Marcos, CA||$4,800|
|3-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, Italy||$5,000|
|3-night stay at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy||$5,000|
|Greenhill Blanc de Blancs wine||$39|
|3 fitness training sessions with Jay Cardiello||$1,400|
|Joseph’s Toiletries toilet paper||$275|
|Sterling silver necklace||$150|
|El Silencio Mezcal||$75|
|Mission1 protein bar||$6|
|Nuelle Fiera arouser for her||$250|
|Phantom Glass screen protector||$50 – $60|
|Purely Inspired Organic Protein||$20|
|Rouge Maple culinary products||$99|
|Sedone Lace makeup brush set||$110|
|Steamist spa system||$5,060|
|Sundial powder coating||$500|
|Blow dryers and flat irons||$250|
|Vampire Breast Lift||$1,900|
|740 Park plastic surgery||$5,530|