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EXCLUSIVE: Publicist Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski Talk’s TIFF’s Celebrity Gifting Lounge

Rock-it promotion’s Goldblatt-Sadowski chats with Shalom Life about Tastemakers, the first full-service, Canadian-owned and operated product placement company specializing in gifting lounges and swag bags.

By: Ashley Ramnarain
Published: October 7th, 2013 in Culture » Society » Interviews
Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted as my career vs. my job. My oldest and closest girlfriend, actor/producer Jennifer Podemski knew I was a good writer, was very comfortable in sales and loved being around creative people,” Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski explains in an exclusive interview, “She wanted to help me out, so she introduced me to her agent, a producer and a publicist. I spent some time with each of them and landed on PR in the end. I had a computer, a spare bedroom in my parent’s house-I moved back home- and nothing to lose. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Goldblatt-Sadowski launched rock-it promotions in 2000, a top lifestyle-based public relations firm based in Toronto. She has established herself as a PR expert, featured on numerous local television shows such as CityTV, Global News, Toronto Living eTalk and much more. Last year she was voted PR Professional of the Year at the inaugural BizBash Toronto Reader’s Choice Awards. However, rock-it promotions isn’t Goldblatt-Sadowski’s only successful launch. In 2005, she and Leesa Butler launched Tastemakers, the first full-service, Canadian-owned and operated product placement company specializing in gifting lounges and swag bags.

“I was constantly gifted items for high profile talent that I was working with during TIFF and often they would turn it down. So it became a real drag – it would be delivered, I would schlep it to them, they would refuse the items, I would have to return it to said PR/company. I was discussing with a client’s wife, Leesa Butler, and she asked how it worked at other festivals. I explained and again, the rest is history,” Goldblatt-Sadowski explains, describing the inspiriting behind Tastemakers,

“We took a chance and ended up on the cover of Globe and Mail and National Post. Leesa became my VP of Operations and we continue to run the company together today. We were the very first full-service gifting lounge at TIFF and September 2014 will be our 10th anniversary.”

The first Tastemakers Lounge premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since then, Tastemakers has had a major presence at Canada's Juno, Genie and Gemini awards shows, plus broadcast network, sporting and corporate fundraising events. Although the company continues to expand, TIFF is the company’s largest event every year.

“It is a space that I know intimately. I’ve worked TIFF for more than 15 years and unlike some other product placement companies who try to penetrate that market, I know exactly how schedules run, where all the action takes place, who the contacts are to bring talent in, etc,” Goldblatt-Sadowski shares, revealing why she chose TIFF as the Tastemakers starting point, “We have hosted lounges at the Gemini, Genie and Juno awards as well as various sporting and corporate events, and would consider other events again if it’s the right fit, but we know we have the best lounge at TIFF, year after year, and we really enjoy it, so that’s where we put our energy and time.”

For Tastemakers ninth year at TIFF, this past September,, the theme was “Need it Now,” perfect for the busy atmosphere of the festival and designed for convenience.

“If you’ve ever worked TIFF, you know the answer to this question! It is go, go, go, go all the time. Quite unlike any other event I’ve ever worked,” she answers when asked about this year’s theme.

“Useful items are a must during a busy time. Nothing like needing a pack of gum before you go on the red carpet and finding some Dentyne in your gift bag. It just makes sense,” she continues.

Tastemakers swag bags are not only always convenient, but also feature a fresh, unique Canadian flavour. Goldblatt-Sadowski loves sharing local talent with international, and influential visitors.

“I’ve always made it a priority to have items that make sense for talent to bring home, or use while they are in town. Nobody is going to lug a large item home, especially when so many visitors bring an overnight bag. I also always have Canadian products featured because we like to have something that they aren’t as likely to have seen before. We love a mix of large brands with recognisability and the littler guys who are doing something really innovative and smart. For example, this year we featured Seventh Generation and popchips as our top tier sponsors who talent know and love, and we had Canadian brands such as Penguin Canada Books, CAKE beauty, Awake Chocolate, Ukloo and Alto Collective featured (and more) that some people know well, and some don’t know at all.”

Hundreds of talent have visited the lounge or received gift bags including Brad Pitt, Woody Harrelson, Freida Pinto, Elias Koteas, Kat Dennings, Eric McCormack, Gabby Sidibe, David Cronenberg, Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Viggo Mortensen, Perez Hilton, Forest Whitaker, Shirley MacLaine, Ellen Burstyn, Kathleen Robertson, Kristin Booth, Emily Hampshire, Joshua Jackson, Christian Slater, Sigourney Weaver, Samuel L. Jackson, Joaquin Phoenix and many more.

Related articles: Publicist, Public Relations, PR, Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival, rock-it promotions, Tastemakers, Leesa Butler, Interview, Celebrity, Gifting Lounge
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