For 16 years, Distinctive Assets marketing agency founder Lash Fary has overseen the curation and distribution of the "Everybody Wins Nominee Gift Bag" - note the lack of the word "Oscars", after a 2016 run-in with the academy's attorneys.

We met Fary to look at this year's offerings. Each bag is heavy enough to risk back injury if you tried to lift it with poor form. The primary bag and its smaller sibling, the overflow gift bag, contain more than 50 items valued at what Fary describes as a "strong six figures".

Asked to clarify, he said that a "strong six figures" means you're somewhere over the US$150,000 ($207,000) mark, while a "weak six figures" would imply a paltry US$100,000.

Fary's business plan is a self-fulfilling publicity prophecy. Brands who crave celebrity endorsement pay his agency a minimum of US$4000 to be included in the bag, which is delivered to every acting and directing nominee the week of the Oscars. Though there is no guarantee that a celebrity will publicly tout any of the gifts he or she receives, the world's unhealthy fascination with the swag bag ritual leads to widespread media coverage of the bag itself. Almost as soon as one Oscars ceremony ends, Fary begins to curate the next year's bag, and on and on it goes, forever.


It's difficult to behold the collection of gifts without contemplating class war.

This year's offerings include skin-care, weight-loss and anti-ageing products designed to fend off the inevitable progression of human life, as well as something called "Chao Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation".

The bag features chocolates from Chocolatines in flavours unknown to the proletariat, such as "Champagne Diamond" and "Ginger Sake Pearl".

We sampled the "Pomegranate Balsamic Ruby" but somehow just couldn't taste the ruby.

This year's most expensive offering is a US$40,000 luxury trip to Tanzania from International Expeditions. Fary said he probably wouldn't take the trip himself because he didn't like the hassle of travel.

Some of the bag's gifts make strange bedfellows. The "D. Thomas Signature DNA Head to Toe" treatment promises in a Distinctive Assets news release to use "the magic and science of laser and light" to "soft focus your skin's imperfections from head to toe".

Tucked in beside it is children's book Curlee Girlee, by Atara Twersky, whose stated mission is to "empower young girls to love all their unique features".

Stranger still is the fact that all nominees receive the same set of gifts, offering the mental image of Christopher Plummer receiving a deluxe set of false eyelashes from Le Céline, or host Jimmy Kimmel, who also gets a bag, enjoying a new can of "Pepperface", a "stylish pepper spray".

Will Richard Jenkins enjoy "sexy, youthful, voluminous hair" with the new products from Totalee Hair?

Will any of the nominees take advantage of an exclusive offer to sign up for NeverMissed, a dating app inspired by the romance of missed connections? It's hard to imagine - yet here we are imagining it, which perhaps is the entire point.

Why give gifts to those who already have it all?

"Their brands are valuable as a commodity," Fary explains, "and that's why we're giving them these products."

The brands that dish out thousands to be part of the swag bag "hope that the stars will love their product" or that in the case of a spa service or retreat, the celebrity will "show up and sprinkle stardust on it".

And what does Fary say to those who may criticise the ritual as a total waste of money?

"I would just tell them to take a marketing class."