Champagne Truffles and Filet Mignon Deliveries: Hollywood's New Gifting Explosion

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Champagne Truffles and Filet Mignon Deliveries: Hollywood’s New Gifting Explosion

“Pandemic gifts have gone crazy,” says an entertainment marketing executive

For those in the business of luxury gifting for Hollywood clients, it’s part of the job to keep the identities of both the giver and the receiver top secret. Which is why Tom Gallop, owner with wife Tara of Beverly Hills Teuscher-Chocolates of Switzerland, would not reveal the identity of a certain Oscar-winning actor-director who recently received a $310 silk-lined box of truffles from an unnamed producer.

But Gallop strongly suggested that Clint Eastwood was the recipient of assortment of Teuscher’s champagne truffles, made at the Swiss company’s Zurich headquarters and laced with Dom Pérignon. While Gallop was officially mum, he offered these clues to TheWrap via email: “You’ll have to ‘Unforgiven’ me for this. Hate to be such a ‘Dirty Harry,’ but that’s just ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of the situation.”

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Still, whether or not the Truffled One was actually Eastwood, this recent gift is indicative of a Hollywood trend that has heated up during the pandemic: lavish gift-giving as a way to replace the wining, dining and other IRL ways traditionally used to cultivate valuable relationships with clients, stars, awards voters and critics. “The gifting has been up, and more extravagant,” Gallop said.

One entertainment industry marketing executive who asked not to be named said remote work and social isolation provided a natural trend toward gifting in the absence of live events and social invitations. “They are doing it because they have a captive audience, they have your address, and they can send s— to your house,” she said.

Among some of the more outrageous gifts have been:

  • A full filet mignon dinner for two complete with a bottle of red wine and candles (Amazon)
  • Embossed stationery with silver-toned letter opener, Scotch with decanter (Netflix)
  • A working phonograph (NBCUniversal/Lionsgate)
  • A full-sized gym locker (TBS)
  • A 20-lb 12-pack of organic Kreation Organic Juices in a crate (Amazon)

Professional gift companies catering to Hollywood — as well as some recipients of over-the-top gifts — told TheWrap the gifting falls into two categories: those intended to cement relationships between talent and their representatives or producers (presumably the case for Clint’s candy box) and so called “campaign gifting” that is mainly intended to capture the attention of groups who can help steer a project or a star toward Emmys, Oscars or any number of other awards that raise the profile (read:profitability) of a movie or TV show.

And of course, there’s plenty of crossover between, the marketing executive said. If a gift goes out to critics, entertainment journalists or awards voters, the star of the project must get one, too.

Mary Noon, owner of Salt & Pepper Gifts, which caters to many Hollywood clients, observed a “huge” surge in the in their business as the pandemic progressed. “When COVID started in Q2 of last year, we were dead in the water, no one knew what to do, how to react or respond,” she said. “Then as we began to do everything virtually, we saw a big increase in demand. We were shifting to gift boxes and experiences, all of a sudden doing really high volume, 500 to 1,000 gifts per order.” However, she noted that the gifting is tapering off a bit as the country begins opening up and shifting to a new normal.

It’s a commonly accepted premise that the pandemic drove an increased appetite for streaming, and for better or worse drove more projects to skip theaters for release on a streaming platform — or in the case of high-profile TV series and documentaries, no private screening to introduce the project to awards voters, critics and press. And in the competition for eyeballs, the streaming wars quickly became gift wars, too.

“It’s part of the awards play, pandemic gifts have gone crazy,” the entertainment marketing executive said, noting that Netflix kicked off the pandemic gift wars last year with a multilevel box for “The Crown” that included embossed stationery and letter opener, as well as faux news articles about the royals featuring the actors’ photos and a bottle of Scotch with a decanter. “The talent will say: ‘Where’s my box? If you don’t send a box, do you not believe in the show or the film?” the exec added.

Even without a box, recipients observe that many of the so-called campaign gifts have gotten bigger, or more elaborate during the pandemic. “It got to the point where it just become annoying,” one critic said. “I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff rather than hang onto it.”

Among the examples: A full-sized school locker to promote the TBS series “Chad,” starring “SNL” veteran Nasim Pedrad as a hapless 14-year-old boy from a Persian-American family, and a working phonograph from NBC and Lionsgate to celebrate the musical roots of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (the gift unfortunately did not keep the series from being canceled after two seasons, although Lionsgate is trying to shop it elsewhere).

Food and alcohol are popular gifts, presumably shipped with the hope that the recipient will sit down and watch the project with treats in hand. To lure viewers for this year’s virtual 72nd Emmy Awards, the Television Academy sent out signature cocktail recipes from celebrity mixologist Charles Joly, including the necessary amount of Ketel One Vodka to make a fruity Hollywood Mule or another signature drink. Amazon splurged on a crate of four bottles from Black-owned wineries to promote Barry Jenkins’ “Underground Railroad” — and then sent 12 Kreation juice bottles, each bearing a label with the name of a different show.

And mixing both the big box and food concepts, Amazon sent out the full filet mignon dinner in its own branded tote for two (pictured below) on May 21, the same day its sci-fi series “Solos” premiered on Prime Video. “Since they can’t have a premiere where they’d invite lots of people and feed them all at the after party, they send food to everybody’s houses,” one critic said.

Sarah Simms, owner with her twin sister Boo Simms of Lady & Larder, reinvented their West L.A. gourmet cheese shop, which provided cheese boards to parties and events pre-pandemic, into a floral gift basket delivery service in late 2020. One reason for heavy gifting from entertainment companies and agents, she said, was that they weren’t able to spend their lavish event budgets for the year. “Everyone had to think about how to bring those parties into people’s homes,” Simms said. “We went from zero to hundreds, we make gift baskets every day. It literally went from a nonexistent to a daily part of our business.”

Simms said that even post-pandemic, delivering floral gift baskets are going to remain an integral part of the business. “It’s definitely been a learning curve, there’s nothing more fun that seeing people delivering gifts,” she said. “I don’t think the gifting is going to stop.”

Steve Pond contributed to this report.

Diane Haithman