Take a look at this year’s $230,000 ode to excess. http://slate.me/1piMyby
  1. The Academy Awards are having a rough time in 2016.
    Already under fire for the lack of minority nominees, the Oscars’ latest scandal involves its extravagant gift bags.
  2. First, Palestinian activists urged recipients to boycott the $55,000 luxury vacation to Israel that’s included in the package.
    Then, the company responsible for distributing the bags was sued by…
  3. The Academy itself!
  4. The lawsuit alleges that Distinctive Assets, the product placement company, has committed copyright infringement by naming its swag bags “14th Annual ‘Everyone Wins’ Gift Bags in Honor of the Academy Awards”.
    The Academy says its name has been smeared by the bad press associated with the gift bags.
  5. It might have a point — press coverage has focused on the gifts’ obscene cost and unsavory nature.
    Some of the items include a $250 vibrator and something called a Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900).
  6. The controversy surrounding celebrity gift bags has been brewing for years.
    Award ceremonies and other high-profile events are prime targets for product placement, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by savvy marketers.
  7. A celebrity endorsement of a brand’s product or service can be worth much more than traditional advertising.
    People trust Instagram posts more than banner ads.
  8. The trend of extravagant branding is relatively new.
  9. Back in the 1970s, the Academy gave small gift bags to participants as a thank-you for their participation.
    But later, it became more difficult to entice presenters to attend multiple unpaid rehearsals, so the bags were made more lucrative.
  10. By 2006, the official Academy gift bag was worth so much money that the IRS ruled Hollywood stars needed to declare the bags as income.
  11. Today, a cottage industry of product placement companies keeps the stars swimming in swag — for a nominal fee.
    At some exclusive events, companies pay up to $50,000 just for the privilege of giving their products away.
  12. That way, they can dodge tax responsibilities while still providing tons of tasty freebies.
  13. ‘Everyone Wins’, indeed…