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Racy Items in Oscar 'Swag Bag' Prompt Lawsuit

FILE - Oscar-shaped chocolates are pictured at a preview of the food and decor for the 87th Academy Awards' Governors Ball at the Ray Dolby ballroom in Hollywood, Calif., February 4, 2015. One marketing firm has promised $200,000 gift bags for celebrities

Perhaps you hadn't heard of a Vampire breast lift before, but thanks to a lawsuit, you have now.

Name recognition is the marketing goal behind many items included in annual "swag bags" given at entertainment industry award shows. But this year's Oscar swag bag items, in the eyes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have gone too far.

Some of the more controversial items in the $200,000 bag (in addition to the $1,900 breast lift) are a $250 sex toy for women, a $275 roll of toilet paper and its $900 personalized dispenser, plastic surgery valued at more than $5,500, and a $250 marijuana vaporizer. The bags are given to major nominees and the host.

The academy is suing the company that independently creates the gift bags, Distinctive Assets, for “the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products," as well as infringing on the Oscar trademark.

An academy spokesperson told VOA, "Distinctive Assets has been falsely representing that its extravagant 'gift bags' are distributed by the academy, at its direction, or with its endorsement or approval. The academy has no affiliation with Distinctive Assets."

Celebrities are accustomed to high-priced items as gifts from manufacturers. The manufacturers, in turn, hope the celebrities will endorse them by using the products — or, these days, by tweeting about it or posting it on Instagram.

"For an emerging luxury brand, that celebrity endorsement is what makes you known to the public," said Rajiv Menon, the cultural analyst of TruthCo, an entertainment branding and insights company.

Dilutes stigma

Menon said the publicity about the questionable items breaks down any stigma and makes them more acceptable in the marketplace.

The academy faced criticism after the nominations were announced in January because no person of color was nominated in any category. Celebrities promised to boycott the awards ceremony, and a Twitter hashtag was born: #OscarsSoWhite.

The Memobottle water reusable water bottles featured in the 2016 Oscars gift bags are valued at $47 each.
The Memobottle water reusable water bottles featured in the 2016 Oscars gift bags are valued at $47 each.

So, Menon says, that makes the academy's decision to sue Distinctive Assets understandable. "This is really a rough year for the Oscar brand, with so much scrutiny over what the institution of the Oscars really is. Is it just wealthy people patting themselves on the back? Or is it an opportunity for emerging brands to get out their products?"

Also creating a stir this year is the $55,000 10-day VIP Explore Israel trip, partly financed by the Israeli government. Two U.S.-based organizations are urging celebrities to skip the trip and not support Israel.

Other trips include a $54,000 Walk Japan Tour for two and $10,000 worth of hotel stays in Italy.

Here's the list of everything in the bag, as provided to VOA by Distinctive Assets. The Oscars will be awarded on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

And in case you are still wondering, the Vampire Breast Lift uses a woman's own blood to improve appearance via plasma injection. Hence, the name.

$5,000 3 nights at Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria Sorrento, Italy
$5,000 3 nights at Grand Hotel Tremezzo Lake Como, Italy
$54,000 15 day Walk Japan tour for two
$55,000 10-Day VIP Explore Israel tour

$698 Vitris Swiss eyewear
$125 Zekkle Edge pocket wallet
$300 Simone I Smith jewelry
$50 Rock the Vote T-shirt
$150 Lat & Lo necklace
$25 Farm Wife Style earrings
$345 Tieks women’s shoes
$300 Belldini women’s fashions
$21 Dandi Patch underarm sweatpads

Skin care, fitness
$5,530 in services from 740 Park Plastic Surgery
$193 Healing Luminosity serum and hair follicle stimulant
$31,200 Lifetime supply of Pu-erh tea cream and cleansing bar
$154 Caolion skin care
$5,060 Steamist home spa collection
$1,175 Joseph’s Toiletries toilet paper and personalized dispenser
$12,250 Fit Club TV “Ultimate Fitness Package”
$40 Thera Cane Max massager
$250 Tools by Gina hairstyling tools
$1,900 Vampire breast lift
$900 Alexis Seletzky, fitness trainer
$2,199 Prodecotech electric bike
$1,400 Jay Cardiello, 3 fitness sessions
$4,800 3 days at Golden Door Resort & Spa
$3 Chapstick

Food, drink
$35 Chocolatines bites
$19.88 Hydroxycut gummies for weight loss
$39 Green Hill Winery bottle of 2013 Greenhill Blanc de Blancs, Virginia
$300 Personalized M&Ms
$2,723 The Natural Mixologist custom cocktails
$19.97 Purely Inspired organic protein shake
$99 Rouge Maple products
$75 Mezcal el Silencio
$5.64/box Mission1 protein bar
$2,500 Kai Kani La 9-course tasting menu

$29.29 Slimware portion-control plates
$500 in services from Sundial Powder Coating
$249.99 Haze Dual V3 vaporizer for marijuana
$6,300 10,000-meal donation to animal shelter in bag recipient's name from Halo
$109.95 Sedona Lace makeup brush set
$250 Fiera Arouser for Her
$59.95 Phantom Glass screen protector
$47 Memobottle water bottle
$2,000 Personalized gift basket
$11.99 Gleener on the Go lint brush
$125 Tribute personalized video montage