By Chloe Aiello
The Academy Awards are about so much more than movies ー and there's perhaps no better place for celebs to snag free loot or gift bags than HBO's Luxury Lounge gifting suite.
A little over 15 years ago, the gifting suite was little more than a hospitality area for talent, according to Britt Johnson CEO of MediaPlacement, which works with HBO to run the lounge. Today, it's more about giving brands the opportunity to develop relationships with celebrities ー and social media is a big part of it.
"It's more about relationships for the brands," Johnson told Cheddar. "It's about celebrating talent, and having a place for them all to come together and get touched up" between parties.
Kris D. Lofton, who plays Kisan on HBO's "Ballers," told Cheddar he looks forward to the gifting suites because he genuinely likes finding brands to explore.
"Some of these products become like my favorites, and then they become lifelong lasting relationships," he said.
Among the vendors on site this year are Johnnie Walker, Cold Stone Creamery, and Kush Queen ー a female-oriented beauty and lifestyle company that creates CBD and cannabis-infused products.
Kush Queen CEO and founder Olivia Alexander said the company's presence in a corporate space is a sign of the evolving times.
"I'm actually just shocked I'm allowed in, especially in HBO. It's just a sign of the times," Alexander said.
In recent years, social media has added an entirely new element to the gifting suites. While exclusive experiences were once protective about exposure, brands today think with social media first.
Kush Queen's booth, for example, featured a flower-covered selfie wall.
"As you can see, a lot of these setups that you'll see, like with Bose or Kush Queen, they're designed more for selfies, for people to actually engage their own audience," Johnson said.