In 2016, the total value of each gift bag was roughly $232,000, adding up to a total of $6 million. The participating companies donate all the items and have to pay a hefty promotional fee. Last year, brands had to cough up at least $4,000 to participate.
Why do companies lavish so much on 25 individuals? It's product placement, plain and simple. "We are not gifting Oscar nominees out of a sense of philanthropy, " Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary told FORBES in 2016. "We are gifting them for the same reason that they are paid upwards of $20 million for a single film...because their personal brand has value as a commodity."
Shortly after last year's Oscars, the Academy sued Distinctive Assets, claiming that “Distinctive Assets’ continued use of the Academy’s trademarks not only infringes the Academy’s trademarks, but it is also likely to dilute the distinctiveness of the Academy’s famous trademarks and tarnish their goodwill.” The complaint also cites negative media coverage of the gift bags, which "focused on both the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products...and the unseemliness of giving such high value gifts...to an elite group of celebrities." Last year, FORBES explored the marketing effectiveness and optics of the exorbitant swag bag.
The Academy and Distinctive Assets have since reached a settlement and the marketing company takes pains to make it clear the Academy has no association with the gift bags. In response to last year's drama, Distinctive Assets has toned down its extravagant image, declining to disclose the individual product prices and the overall value of the gift bag. The company states that the gift bag's value is over $100,000, but it's "nowhere close to the inaccurate reports that hit the internet this week." For instance, The Guardian claimed the bag was worth £160,000 (roughly $200,000). “Our goal is not to increase the value each year,” said Fary in a press statement. “A great gift has nothing to do with the price tag, and we are desperately trying to move the conversation away from that point... especially when outlets simply make up alternative values to suit a headline.”
Though these "alternative values" are difficult to dispute without an exact price breakdown, the gift bag does appear far less extravagant this year. I would be shocked if the total value exceeds $200,000. Tragically, many of last year's big ticket items are absent, such as the year's worth of Audi rentals ($45,000), 15-day private tour of Japan ($54,000), VIP all-inclusive trip to Israel ($55,000) and a lifetime's supply of Lizora skincare products ($31,200). This year's most expensive item is a three-day stay at a California ranch, which is valued at $40,000, and there are few (if any) other five-figure gifts. This year's Oscar nominees will also miss out on provocative gifts, including the Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900) and a Fiera vibrator ($250).
That said, the swag is still delightfully--or distastefully, depending on your perspective--luxurious and absurd. Sorry, Us Weekly, but stars--they're not just like us.
Here are some highlights from the gift bag
(1) Private three-day stay at the Lost Coast Ranch ($40,000)
This vacation is the most expensive component of the gift bag. The Northern California mansion boasts 18 bedrooms for up to 10 guests, gourmet catering and a beach access.
(2) Week-long stay at the Golden Door spa ($8,850)
The San Diego destination spa claims to donate 100% of net profits to children's advocacy organizations.
(3) Three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria ($5,000)
This deal was included in last year's gift bag, and was valued at $5000 at the time.
(4) 10 sessions with celebrity trainer Alexis Seletzky ($900)
The package was valued at $900 for last year's gift bag. The $90 per session price tag is actually a bargain, considering a session at Equinox costs about $100 to $155 per hour.
(5) Oomi ($599)
The starter kit for the home automation system, which includes smart lighting and a security camera with night vision, retails at $599.
(6) 14 carat gold and diamond OM bracelet by Yogajewelz ($595)
I can envision Emma Stone wearing a diamond bracelet to her yoga class.
(7) Anteater patterned handbags by Jules K. ($370-$395)
The origin story of Jules K. is quite poetic: "A little girl falls in love with anteaters. That same girl grows into a woman who loves handbags."
(8) Haze Dual V3 Vaporizer ($249.99)
Distinctive Assets claims that that the vaporizer is the first and only dual chamber vaporizer on the market
(9) Elvie, a pelvic floor exercise tracker and app ($199)
Do Kegel exercises like the stars!
(10) SweetCheeks cellulite massage mats ($99)
SweetCheeks claims all you have to do is sit on the mat for 30 minutes daily in order to reduce the appearance of cellulite. This sounds too good (and too absurd) to be true.
(11) CPR Anytime kit ($40)
This kit from the American Heart Association claims to teach anyone to learn hands-only CPR in just 20 minutes.
There are many lower-end items, perfect for those "down to earth" celebs. The cheapest item is a $4.99 ChapStick. The nominees will also receive nearly a year's worth of Opal apples (GMO-free, obviously), personalized 64-count Crayola boxes that include a special gold crayon with his or her name and a mouth guard party game called "Watch Ya' Mouth" (don't ask).
See the full list here.