Katrina Bowden loves her gift-suite swag and her "30 Rock" swagger

Last month, the TV industry converged on Manhattan for the annual upfronts -- the period when the networks pitch their fall series to advertisers to attract large "upfront" ad commitments.

Traditionally, the upfronts have meant a grand celebration, full of celebs, musical acts, programming previews, parties with gourmet food and drink, and lots of swag -- er, deluxe parting gifts -- exchanged in hotels' special "gifting suites."

But that was all scaled back after the 2007 writer's strike. Today, many networks have opted instead for smaller "roadshow" presentations to advertisers. With the recession in full bloom, even the swag is more modest than in upfronts past. Still, some still felt the value of media coverage outweighed their modest impulses, and they went in, again, for a big show.

But first things first: swag. This year, the exclusive W New York hotel's penthouse gifting suite offered new fashion and luxury brands -- Desert Essence, Yansi Fugel, Moods of Norway, House of Kilroy, Jump, Camacho cigars, and Shop The Look jewelry -- each vying to become candy for the arm of a celeb. (The system, like it or not, is still one of the best media for an emerging brand to reach a large audience.)

The ideal swag audience is rising celebrities, desperate for freebies; this year the target included the casts of "Melrose Place," "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," and cast members from "House," "Fringe," "90210," "Ugly Betty," and "In Treatment."

Katrina Bowden, who plays the hot ditzy assistant Cerie on "30 Rock," picked up makeup pallets from Pop Beauty, nail polish from Np2, a Kipling tote, a Radley London handbag, shoes from Emu, tank tops from Bobi, dresses from Walter, all-natural and certified organic perfume spray from Wholearth, Real Food Organics daily vitamins, and collapsable speakers from Fashionation.

Bowden, already wearing her Bobi top, had only visited gifting suites at the Emmys and the SAG Awards, was thrilled with iPod speakers, Guitar Hero, and any clothing. "I love finding new designers," she told us. "It sets you apart from what everyone else is wearing."

Bowden appears in one of the only TV shows that has consistently addressed the recession this season. "It's important for our writers and all of our producers to use pop culture and the news and what's going on in the real world," she told us. "The show ties things together, so people can relate to it. I think that's kind of what makes the show funny and witty and smart -- it uses things that are happening every day to make comedy."

Fortunately, Katrina is nothing like her character. "I'm not flighty and ditzy like you'd think," she said. "I'm way more motivated. Yes, I like to please, and yes, I like to make people happy, but I'm a lot more serious. And my wardrobe is not the same exactly." (Cerie's wardrobe barely conceals her.)

"I think all the characters on the show are exaggerations of people that we know everyday," she said. "I love the character, because I have so much fun playing it, mocking that type of person. I love playing a part that the TV writers write such hilarious lines for."

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