Seasonal “Award” Greetings: Interview With A Gifting Suite Maven

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Debbie Durkin on Extra!
Debbie Durkin on Extra!

How long have you been doing your events?
Since 2005, two years in development, six years of active productions. We also produced hundreds of live trade show and corporate events in Chicago and New York from 1975-1990.

And how did you get started?
I was co-producing a feature film, integrating brands into the storyline of the film, and heard horror stories from discussions with brands about their past celebrity event experiences. From their feedback I made the decision to create and launch a powerful, purposeful celebrity and media platform that connects brands with trendsetters and influencers, an intimate, classy foundation where we respected and advised each brand to focus on what they do best by providing a respected entertainment industry event (by-invitation-only) that delivers positive results, saves the planet one step at a time, builds awareness and much-needed funds for charities.

Name some of the places where you’ve held them?
Private celebrity estates and upscale luxury hotels

Besides of leaning towards the green lifestyle, what do you think sets your events apart from other gifting suites?
Main Event Red Carpet Lounges & Green Suites is our personal brand, an extension of our high values, integrity, and passion. As active TV/Film product placement producers, we know the market. We work on projects ahead of launch, sometimes a year or more in advance, we are on point with pop culture trends. We care about our brands staying in business. We help define each brand, by creating a fabulous experience with attention to details. We have a strict event guest list screening process. We do not permit guests whose singular interest is to get “free” things, who have no intention of becoming future customers of our brands that disrespect hard-working brands who need sales to stay in business. From over 30 years experience in the industry we are proud to draw from that knowledge, to work harder to deliver to our brands to real media and select real influencers. We care about re-building our economy in the USA and want our work to make a difference.

We also create additional content platforms: we produced “Eco Hollywood” a 1/2 hr. TV special from our Eco Hollywood Earth Day event at the Montage Beverly Hills that aired in May on CBS-LA. Stay tuned for more future TV shows and webisodes featuring celebrities and our brands!

How do you prepare for an event — from who gets to participate to location and/or theme?
It takes three to four months of singular focus to produce one of our events. We develop a concept, handpick our sponsors from our research, outreach them, then produce customized brand activation if they are a right fit. Many of brand sponsors are selected from word-of-mouth referrals within the industry

Do you have any rules for what participating businesses can and cannot do during events?
Yes, we outline instructions in our Sponsor Event Guidelines and review questions at our live Sponsor Orientation on our first event day how businesses must prepare to conduct themselves and present their one-on-one product pitches professionally to our VIP guests.

In your opinion, how important are gifting suites to award seasons?
We are not classified as a “gifting suite” per se like most lounges today. We are a Celebrity and Media Hospitality Lifestyle Lounge honoring those award show nominees and presenters and the executives within the industry by featuring sustainable experiences such as delicious organic foods and nutritional supplements, signature cocktails, celebrity hybrid transportation, eco-chic fashions, beauty and grooming services, healthy beverages, providing “green” choices for celebrities to sustain their “eco-luxe” Lifestyles by supplying ‘the best’ in all genres, featuring music artist showcases that give emerging talent a platform to be seen and heard by the industry and media, promoting charity causes through awareness and fundraising, with a select “gifting” component to nominees. We feel that it is productive for brands by association with award shows to get media attention (plus that’s the time when most celebrities are in town) as the media focuses their attention on each high-profile season. Consumers want brands that are “connected” to the celebrity demographic.

What do you say to critics of gifting suites who feel celebrities have enough stuff?
Celebrities are generous philanthropists who come from their hearts and use their status in positive ways. They work multiple scheduled appearances per week, often many times per day. They cannot be seen in the same outfit in these situations, so they need ‘more’ given their lifestyle demands and to inspire hope in their fans. The original principle of the ‘gifting suite’ is that a brand would ‘gift’ a product and in return, the recipient would allow a photo of the celebrity wearing/holding their product. If celebrities realized just how much they were helping small business owners with this grass roots concept, I firmly believe that the economy in the USA would be stronger today.

Tell me one of the coolest things said you about your suite by a celebrity?
“Be ‘on the Red’ with Deb”

“However glamorous her affairs always are, her true shine is in her heart of sharing and being a humanitarian”

“Debbie’s event’s always have the most unique and stylish vendors at her eco-themed parties. I always leaving having learned something new and innovative that can help us heal our precious planet while having a wonderful time!

“Debbie Durkin does the loveliest of events”

Describe ways you stay eco-friendly in your personal life?
I recycle, eat and buy 99 percent organic foods, cook organic dog food for my Labrador Retriever, Cruiser; keep lights turned off that are not needed, do not use my heat or air conditioner, carry recyclable bags, wear as much eco-friendly clothing as possible, share rides, reuse water bottle containers, work online/send e-cards to save paper, etc.


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