By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - You know you're in Hollywood when Uggie, the spunky dog from Oscar nominated film "The Artist" gets invited to an Oscar gifting suite -- and turns it down.
The popular Jack Russell terrier received an invitation to Debbie Durkin's annual Eco-Oscars Music, Celebrity and Pet Style Lounge where he would have been photographed in the Red Carpet Pets area, designed a dog bowl for charity, munched on some treats and walked away with a luxurious Minky Couture blanket.
Alas, Uggie was too busy taping Oscar predictions for late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and had to decline.
But many others are showing up to the suite, one of about a dozen in Los Angeles catering to celebrities in the lead-up to Sunday's Academy Awards. Gift lounges, also called swag suites, have become key marketing tools for companies seeking exposure for products because star endorsements often draw customers.
In recent years, with the economy weak and people out of work, the lavishing of gifts upon celebrities was seen by some as insensitive and many of the companies began donating to charity or stayed away entirely.
But this year, with the economy appearing to be on the mend, they are back in large numbers. Celebrities who accept gift bags are liable for paying tax on the swag following a 2006 crackdown by U.S. authorities.
"Celebrity alignment is something every brand wants these days," said Christine King, president of TMG International, which is holding the TMG/Pandora Jewelry Luxury "Red Carpet Ready" suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"If you can't afford to pay $5 million to $15 million dollars for a 3-year endorsement deal, these suites are like a backdoor endorsement," she said.
Case in point, King's client Surface Haircare attributes celebrity alignment to an increasing number of salons using their products in the U.S. and Canada since they began participating in the Oscar suites three years ago.
At the TMG/Pandora suite, stars can get complimentary full facials, hair care, make-up and manicures. Handbags by Katherine Baumaun are available on loan, and Pandora jewelry has a "bar" set up where celebs can build their own bracelet.
Watch company Paccioni at GBK's annual lounge at the W Hollywood hotel, is asking stars if they want to design their own watch, valued at $6,000. At Kari Feinstein's Oscar Style Lounge, Capella Resorts in Cabo San Lucas is giving out trips to their five star hotel worth $2000-$3000 dollars.
In keeping with a theme since the 2006 release of Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," many of the suites feature green products or promote environmental responsibility.
Durkin's Eco-Oscar suite, held at the Pickford Mansion in Hancock Park where parts of "The Artist" were shot, showcases products made of recyclable materials, among many items. The trash bags on site are biodegradable, and the food is organic.
Items there are "less about being the shiny new object and more about awareness," Durkin said. "It's not a $10,000 necklace, but is something that will save you $3500 in cleaning and is good for the environment and healthy for your family."
(Editing By Bob Tourtellotte)