March 3, 2006 5:57 PM PST

Techies rub elbows with Oscar

When it comes to cashing in on the celebrity of Hollywood film actors, the technology sector is certainly no novice.

Yet, at this year's Oscar ceremonies at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, the tech sector will likely cast a faint shadow, as companies of every ilk compete in one of the world's most competitive product-placement events.

Some of the more exotic gifts that will be doled out to Oscar luminaries include a vintage silk kimono from designer Kay Ungera, a spa visit at Cornelia Day Resort in Manhattan and a retreat to the Mayan Riviera or a Canadian ski vacation, courtesy of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, according to Entertainment Weekly's Web site.

Compared with that, tech toys may appear a bit ho-hum.

For months, hundreds of tech companies beseeched the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to allow their products to be included in the official gift baskets handed out to Oscar winners, nominees and presenters.

Vonage, Motorola, Netflix and Segway are a few of the tech companies that managed to land their products in the baskets. Kodak, which wasn't chosen, is sidestepping that small detail.

The company is working on a deal with the TV show "Entertainment Tonight" to present each of the "Best Actress" nominees with a diamond encrusted V570 digital camera, according to Brooke Wilson, a Kodak spokeswoman.

The cameras issued to the stars are exactly the same as those any consumer can buy for $399, except they feature $20,000 worth of diamonds fitted in the shape of each actress' initials.

By the sound of it, the techies are doing their best to fit in with the glamour crowd. "Our people will talk to their people if we can't find a way to give them the gifts that night," said Wilson.

The goal in giving freebies to fabulously rich people who are unlikely to need them is, of course, to have the likes of Charlize Theron, Felicity Huffman, Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon coo over the products while the news cameras roll.

Don't be surprised to see your favorite actor or actress toting home a Vonage VTech expandable broadband cordless phone system, worth $550. Jamie Serino, a Vonage spokesman, said the phone will be included in the basket that goes to the night's winners--considered the most prestigious spot.

Segway is reportedly giving away one of its self-balancing people movers, while Netflix will add new celebrity clients to its customer base when it gives away a year's membership, valued at $250. Netflix spokeswoman Bronagh Hanley said the company can boast actors Cynthia Nixon and Samuel L. Jackson and director Quentin Tarantino as customers.

But when it comes to wowing people who are difficult to impress, tech products have fared poorly at the Oscars. Though Motorola's Razr made quite a splash at last year's ceremony, the product that stole the show was a pair of false eyelashes made of mink.

See more CNET content tagged:
Segway, Vonage Holdings Corp., basket, techie, NetFlix Inc.

 

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