TIFF Gifting Suites Differentiate Themselves With Product Categories, Audiences, and Delivery Options

By Susan O'Neill September 21, 2010, 3:25 PM EDT

Photo: BizBash

There's no shortage of swag available to celebrities who come to town during the Toronto International Film Festival. Gift lounges have become a major component, with suites popping up in hotel rooms, event venues, and retail outlets. And although each gift lounge adopts a slightly different approach, the focus remains on creating buzz for brands and placing products in the hands of the stars.

“Every year we try to keep our main focus on elevating Canadian brands,” said Leesa Butler, vice president of operations for the Tastemakers Lounge, presented by Rock-It Promotions for the sixth time at the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville. “One of the reasons we started Tastemakers is because we were concerned that U.S. gifting companies would not pay homage to Canadian brands doing their thing at Canadian events.” Participating brands like Joe Fresh Beauty, Jessica Jensen, Nanoblur, Wescan Optical, and Mattel also receive a lot of media attention, thanks to the lounge's annual media day. “Our gift lounge is a great place to reach an incredible amount of media,” Butler said. “In addition to the product seeding with V.I.P. guests, brands are benefiting from massive buzz.”

Nathalie Dubois-Sissoko, president and C.E.O. of Dubois, Pelin and Associates (a Los Angeles-based marketing company), brought the DPA Gifting Suite back to town for the second time, setting up shop in the presidential suite at the InterContinental Toronto Centre. The company, which hosts gifting suites at film festivals in Cannes, Venice, and Dubai, first hosted a suite in Toronto in 2008. “The stars come to us because, number one, we are the only ones who live in Hollywood. They see us at all of the film festivals, and we have the best brands. I look for things their stylists won't find. The production process takes four months,” said Dubois-Sissoko, who touted the lounge's impact. “In the space of six to seven days, you are going to have as much PR as you would have in six to seven months.”

Jumol Royes and Jessica Glover of Jsquared2 Public Relations also hosted a media preview, held in the Prime Minister's Suite at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, for the second installation of Bask-It-Style. “We wanted to gift things that everyone could related to, things people can use,” said Royes, who maintains that the firm's unique approach to gifting is a draw for sponsors. Royes and Glover deliver gift baskets to the concierge desks at the hotels where stars are staying during the festival to ensure the products are placed into the hands of celebrities. “A lot of companies are looking for ways to get their products to celebrities because celebrities are so influential. But everyone is doing the lounges. We wanted to do something different,” Royes said.

Meanwhile, Esther Garnick of Esther Garnick PR chose to focus on the media, rather than celebrities, with the first TIFF Essentials Lounge, hosted in partnership with Ra Sun Spa on September 7. Guests could have their shoes shined with products from Ecco, receive an express manicure, or get their eyebrows threaded at the spa. “There are so many celebrity lounges, and many of us report on celebrity culture, but the world doesn't stop for TIFF, so a lot of people are pulling double- and triple-time,” Garnick said. “We want to get them fussed over and primed and feel a little bit revived and rejuvenated.” Garnick also handed out TIFF Survival Kits with items like John Frieda hair products and Vitaminwater. “All of the products in our Survival Kits are useful and helpful for the 10-day push,” she said.

For the RealTVfilms Social Media Lounge presented by the Cutting Room, the online media company opted to focus on pampering visiting filmmakers and celebrities with a range of services set up at Abode Public Residence, a soon-to-open event space in the entertainment district. Stylists from Chic Little Devil dressed stars for red-carpet appearances, and Brennen Demelo Studios and Inspire Cosmetics offered hair and makeup touch-ups. “We've traveled all over the world and gone to some of the best lounges, and I started to realize, as someone attending, what I loved,” said RealTVfilms host Samantha Gutstadt, whose video interviews can be found online. “We wanted to make it an experience, somewhere people could come and relax and come face-to-face with some great brands and talk about social media.”

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