|Melissa Lemer and Lorena Bendinskas
Why you need to know them: Ms. Lemer and Ms. Bendinskas’ company organizes its Silver Spoon Hollywood Buffets, casual pre-award show events at which celebrities, stylists and other tastemakers are pampered with free products from designer clothing to jewelry, cosmetics and other luxury goods. M&V caught up with them via e-mail.
Credentials: Silver Screen Entertainment Marketing was founded in 2001. Before that, Ms. Lemer was a publicist at BWR PR, while Ms. Bendinskas worked in marketing at the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. The two, in addition to running the company they co-founded, host the weekly segment “The Thing” on E!’s “Daily Ten,” where they highlight what fashions, cosmetics and products celebrities are coveting.
Talk about the idea behind the buffets. How do they work? What happens at them?
ML: “I grew up in L.A. going to gifting parties and events with friends who were actors. I never felt comfortable because I wasn't an actress and felt like I was in a small fishbowl being observed. By creating a larger, themed environment than your typical suite, no attendee feels as though they're under a magnifying glass. With larger events, you have multiple celebrities in attendance at the same time, and the focus is divided. Everyone that walks through the doors will feel as though they were born with a silver spoon.”
How many of them do you produce each year? LB: “We do four buffets a year: one before the Emmys, the Golden Globes and the Oscars, in addition to our annual Dog & Baby Buffet. This summer, we are hosting our first Beach House in Malibu (sponsored by Polaroid) showcasing our "Summer Must Haves": the latest furniture, food, technology, clothing and cosmetics. In addition to the Buffets, we do private gift bags for celebrity events such as Lindsay Lohan's birthday party and Jessica Simpson's birthday party.”
And how do you determine which brands are featured? ML: “We try to tie the brands to the theme we choose for each event. In the past, we've done everything from nautical, luau, safari to Beverly Hills, the good life.”
How about the celebrities who attend? How do you determine the guest list? ML: “We are fair in inviting all talent. Today's "B" or "C" can be tomorrow’s A-list. Teri Hatcher was coming to our events before "Desperate Housewives" reignited her career.”
Do the brands request certain celebs? LB: “Typically not.”
There are several companies that now produce gift lounges or retreats and similar events. How do you deal with the competition and make yourself stand apart? ML: “There are many new players in this growing industry, and we look at it as a compliment and measure of our success. We have received thank-you letters and e-mails from companies that participated in our events. Vendors have expressed that they have never worked with such an organized company as Silver Spoon. Some brands were impressed by the media coverage that our PR firm BWR secured. Still others were amazed by the show of A-list talent in attendance and overall event production and design.”
How do you measure success for your clients whose products are given to celebrities?
LB: “For some it's a great source of PR through photos and the opportunity to put their product in the hands of celebrities. It increases their chances of getting into the weekly magazines. For example, Treesje, a handbag line at our last Oscar Buffet, gifted Nicollette Sheridan with a brown-leather purse with rhinestones. US Weekly ran a shot of her carrying it with Michael Bolton a few weeks later. Knitwit, a cashmere line, gifted Paris Hilton with a sweater at our Golden Globes buffet, Within days Paris was photographed wearing it on the streets. Gorjana Jewelry, a local jeweler from Laguna Beach, was fortunate enough to get Paris to wear their stuff and be photographed in it. The line’s Japan sales quadrupled.”
There are some companies who refuse to ever give away product to celebs, saying they never benefit from doing that. What are your thoughts on that? ML: “For certain companies the celebrity angle may not be the right choice. However, for fashion, beauty, accessories, gadgets it's all about what the celebrities are wearing, using, etc.”
What are brands asking for when they appear at one of your events? LB: “Placement, exclusivity, press and celebrities.”
Can you give any examples of brands that have taken off in popularity or sales as a result of appearing at one of your events? LB: “Via Spiga, Kookoon Silk Bedding, Gorjana Jewelry and Napoleon cosmetics, to name a few. Silver Spoon introduced the Australian cosmetics line Napoleon to celebrities like Teri Hatcher and Nicollette Sheridan during the Golden Globes 2005. The line is now carried in the States exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Soul Revival, a new clothing line, has secured distribution in mainstream department stores. Linea Pelle, a belt and handbag line was featured at our Emmy buffet in 2004. We placed their belts on talent including Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff. The brand is now carried in Fred Segal.”
There is still some confusion as to what branded entertainment actually is. How do you define it? ML: "I think anyone that has some sales, marketing or PR background knows the power of the stars.”
And how does throwing a buffet fit into the branded entertainment arena? LB: “We create an environment of mass marketing but to an elite group of influential tastemakers.”
What's on your TiVo? ML: “‘The Daily Ten,’ Lifetime movies of the week.” LB: “‘Dateline’ and ‘20/20.’”
What's on your iPod? ML: “Led Zepplin, Grateful Dead and Bob Marley.”
What do you do on your downtime? LB: “Meditate, read and spin!”