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When the beauty industry takes on awards shows, everyone comes out a winner.
Do award shows really make good business sense for beauty brands?
As the media obsession over red-carpet style began reaching a crescendo some three years ago, with it came snickering speculation as to what could possibly be next. Coverage had expanded to identifying heels, diamonds and handbags, but would viewers really want to know what brand lipstick or perfume a star chose on her special day?
At the 2001 Golden Globes, Estée Lauder not only answered the question, but silenced the cynics when it mailed a 24-carat gold-dusted nail polish in a Manolo Blahnik-designed bottle to celebrities and editors. To seal the deal, Aerin Lauder, with husband Eric Zinterhofer in tow, hit the red carpet and made the party rounds that evening. Plenty of press followed, and the promo evidently worked well enough to warrant the megabrand’s return to the Globes and Oscars.
Create a need, perceived or real, and consumers will oblige. It’s Business 101, and the beauty industry clearly recognized an golden opportunity, as the public’s thirst for celebrity-related info has reached surreal proportions. “The whole strategy is to get everyone talking about the look,” conceded Sandra Gabriele, publicity director for Lancôme, a division of L’Oréal USA, which marked its sophomore return to this weekend’s Primetime Emmys by signing on as the exclusive partner of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
A Lancôme suite, appointed with chandeliers and a plum-colored carpet opened at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills Wednesday and serviced a few stars and plenty of journalists and stylists with makeovers, fragrance spritzes and diamond-studded manicures. The deal also allowed Lancôme to set up vanity areas staffed with the company’s makeup artists in powder rooms at the Shrine Auditorium.
Certainly, articles and even entire publications devoted to re-creating a celebrity’s look, with details of specific product and price, have been around longer than television. And, in fact, it’s the months of media coverage following an awards show, informing readers how to achieve a look, which overwhelmingly drives many beauty companies to set up shop.
Lancôme tested the awards show waters last year with a product in the official Emmy basket. By late December, a deal was struck with the ATAS, the first of its kind for the Emmys. “We moved on it very quickly,” Gabriele said. Lancôme president Dalia Chammas arrived Saturday to review this year’s program. Added to the cost of doing business: some 200 gift bags to be distributed at the Peninsula suite — and 10,000 more handed out Sunday to the 5,000 Emmy guests.
“We want to take ownership of the Emmy Awards as the official beauty partner. This is not something we want to do once,” Gabriele said.
Indeed, ownership has become the operative word for such opportunities, as companies have sought to link their names to awards shows through official contracts with their governing boards, or through sheer promotional muscle. L’Oréal pioneered the former concept when it first signed on as the official broadcast sponsor of the Golden Globes in 1995. In recent years, Estée Lauder exemplified the latter when it positioned itself as a force at the Academy Awards with its mobile Oscar spa, while proving an able contender to L’Oréal and others at the Globes.
So why not add the Emmys to its rounds? “Estée Lauder likes to focus on the Hollywood film A-list, finding it to be the perfect audience for our prestige brand,” Carey Merkel, spokeswoman for Estée Lauder’s Hollywood communications program, answered diplomatically. But the reason may not really be that old debate of the big screen’s superior status over its smaller sister. More likely, it’s that the Primetime Emmys don’t have the global viewership of the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
Still, it’s those red-carpet shots that inevitably run on TV and in magazines worldwide that the fashion and beauty industries bank on. “Any time you get your things mentioned that a celebrity uses, it’s good,” noted Valerie Sarnelle, owner of the Valerie of Beverly Hills salon, who tweezes the brows of Emmy-nominated actresses Rachel Griffiths and Debra Messing.
“For past shows, we’ve given away kits which got us some coverage in magazines. People called for the kits and didn’t even care about the makeup’s colors. The celebrity connection was enough. Already with the March Academy Awards in mind, Sarnelle named a fall collection after related terms like the Oscar Gold shadow and Paparazzi lip gloss.
Since brand size doesn’t seem to be an issue when it comes to awards-show involvement, then what about market category?
Although award shows have typically been the domain of prestige lines, mass brands are now increasingly vying for attention. An unexpected player this week is Goody, the $200 million maker of hair accessories and related products sold in drug, discount and food retailers.
At the multibrand, multiroom “super suite” in the Avalon Hotel, near the Carolina Herrera Chic fragrance display and the Fred Segal Beauty nail service stations, Goody displayed its new line of crystal-covered barettes, faux-leather rosettes hair ornaments and other trendy accessories. A styling team lead by Cloutier celebrity stylist Richard Marin tended to guests. In his new role as Goody creative consultant, Marin appeared on CNN and during E!’s pre-show segments this weekend touting the red-carpet trends and advising viewers how to achieve them using Goody products.
“We’re already figuring out how to come back,” said Goody senior brand manager John Andrews. “We wanted to be more credible on the fashion end, so we thought, ‘what better place.’ This is a great way to move the brand in that direction.”
Fees for just participating in suites can start at $5,000 for the Emmys and $10,000 for the Oscars, but can easily escalate to $25,000 and up. That’s just the entrance fee. There’s the cost of the swag itself and personnel, and suite producers often tack on charges for props or styling promotional areas.
Multibrand award show suites can start at $7,000 to $10,000. For a major brand, it can run upwards of $75,000 when travel, gifts, and personnel are factored in. Whether it’s providing swag to baskets or opening a hotel room to VIPs, it’s not necessarily the most sound decision for all companies, noted vets.
“It’s about three goals,” said Ted Kruckel, who produced the Avalon suite featuring Goody, along with Fred Segal Beauty, Helena Rubenstein and upstart cosmetic line Tickle Pink. The New York-based publicist and Oscar and Globes vet marked his first Emmy outing this week.
“You need to get deliverable press, with your name in writing in numerous places. You need a celebrity relationship which lasts and repeats. You need some business delivery, whether it’s inviting local retailers who eventually write up more orders or some other tie-in that drives sales.”
For Kruckel and others, “deliverable” press is measured in TV reel footage and clip books thick with print and wire articles. He and other veterans are well aware that the numbers of guests parading through suites picking up free gifts and services won’t necessarily translate into sales. It’s about the influencers from reporters to stylists.
Michael Baruch of the agency-salon Fred Segal Beauty realized this after his company’s first couple of awards-show forays. Fred Segal Beauty provides artists from its agency and salon and connects suite and event producers with brands interested in product placement.
“Why do we continue to do this? First and foremost, because we are hired to be here,” Baruch said. “The first few times we did this, we did it thinking it was a good promotional opportunity and it was, while we were building our name. Once we reached the awareness point, it no longer provided us with the promotional consideration that we wanted, so it no longer made sense to do it unless we were paid to do it. Offering clothes? Yeah, that’s fine. Free food? That’s good, too. But being served — getting your hair done, your nails done — that is what draws celebrities and others to these events, and it definitely drives interest.”