[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n a recent interview, Woody Allen explained that while being a celebrity has its downsides, like having to dodge paparazzi at every turn, the benefits, like always getting a table at a busy restaurant or being able to see a doctor at any time, far outweigh the costs. Put gifting lounges on the long list of celebrity benefits as well. These events dovetail enterprising businesses with celebrities for mutual gain: The businesses get photos of celebrities enjoying their products while the celebrities get those products to take home. At the GBK Emmy Luxury Gift Lounge held at the W Hotel in Hollywood, Calif., Gavin B. Keilly, a pioneer in the gift lounge concept, explained to Working Author the gifting process and why more companies need to take advantage of this opportunity.
“It was eight years ago when we started the gift lounges,” Keilly said. “Before that I was a financial advisor. Basically, I was literally looking at how I could help companies grow – any which way or form. And by getting photos with celebrities and their product, it really is numerous the ways they can use [them].”
The GBK Emmy Luxury Gift Lounge was bustling with activity as company booths filled the rooms to capacity, with some vendors spilling out into the hallway. Celebrity gifts included high-end watches, cosmetics, electronics and much more, but GBK gift lounges weren’t always like this, Keilly explained. “The first gift lounge I ever did, basically I let anyone in – whether it be celebrities or press or products. I let people in just giving away water bottles. Anyone who was willing to pay me to play with GBK, I let them in. Now it’s [a] very, very stringent process. We probably get 100 submissions a week from companies that want to participate, and we only let the best of the best in. The clients that not only will pay of course, but also the ones that celebrities are going to like.”
And what is the rubric for deciding what a celebrity is going to like? “What I like,” Keilly joked. “[I’ve] been doing this long enough to know that celebrities want the newest, greatest things. They want vacations. They want watches. But also when it comes to cosmetics, they want the newest and greatest things.”
Beyond the “hotness factor” of the products being gifted, companies that want to participate in GBK gift lounges must pay a fee, which can range from $5000 to $40000, depending on a number of factors, including getting their name on the Press wall. On average, however, companies should expect to pay roughly $7500 to participate. For their investment, the vendor receives photos of 70-80 celebrities with their products, which can then be used on social media as well as farmed out to Press outlets.
Keilly highlighted one of his success stories, a cosmetics company that was also at the event. “One of my clients in particular – RevitaLash – they got a 1.2 million dollar ROI doing these gift lounges. And that’s simply by the amount of free press they receive by getting their product in celebrities’ hands and then placed in various magazines like US Weekly, InTouch, People Magazine…Working Author. It’s amazing.”
While being credited as a pioneer in the gift lounge concept, Keilly is careful not to claim to be the originator. “I think there were probably people (already) doing it, but there definitely was not a charitable component before me,” he said. “So we were the first to incorporate charity. We were the first to give back as well, meaning we give back 20% of our profits to three different charities at every event that we do. We also give them free space here so that they have the opportunity to educate not only the celebrities, but also the press about their cause.”
Looking around the event, it was easy to see that everyone there was having a good time. It was relaxing and stress-free, yet the energy was electric in the air as vendors were eager to discuss their products and celebrities, like Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte and Giancarlo Esposito, were happy to receive them. “Everyone loves it,” Keilly stated. “I mean, I don’t want to be egotistical about it, but literally the vendors love it. Vendors love the turnout of the celebrities. And the celebrities, frankly, say this is the best gift lounge. There’s other gift lounges out there, but none that do it the way we do. None that actually walk the celebrity around and carry their bag for them. None that have the great products. I mean, still there are gift lounges out there that will just let anyone in that are willing to pay. And they’re giving away t-shirts and water bottles. We have over 60 staff members working this event.”
GBK Productions has a winning formula here, and Keilly doesn’t see an end to this business model. “There’s always new celebrities. And there’s always celebrities that are going to make it into the media. There’s always celebrities that want media. Frankly, there’s celebrities that show up and [ask], ‘What press is here?’ Because they want to be in the press too.”
Before leaving to attend to his duties as host, Keilly gave a quick glimpse into the future of GBK gift lounges. “I think that more companies will want to participate. More companies will realize the ROI they’re receiving. I think, if anything, I’ll be more picky, more stringent about the companies I allow in. I’ll make them give better gifts to celebrities just because I’ll have the ability to do so. Because I really think it is a no-brainer for so many companies. I mean, it really is.”