This 52INSIGHTS explores how (accelerated in Covid-19) celebrities are going direct to fans to make money via apps like Cameo and their own digitally-led brands.
CAMEO & THE CELEBRITY ‘SHOUT-OUT’ BUSINESS BOOM
Described as a ‘gig economy for niche celebs’, Cameo essentially allows fans to purchase personalised two-minute video messages from celebrities. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $2,500 (The only thing that indicates the level of celebrity is the price they set for their messages).
“The results are digressive, low-touch, strangely intimate, and utterly demented: a parade of distracted, famous strangers offering warmed-over aphorisms about life’s great milestones from parked cars and darkened bedrooms and, weirdly, lots of malls… Cameo offers discomfiting authenticity in the era of the professionally managed Twitter account and the 15-person celebrity social-media team.” The Atlantic
In April, Cameo reported bookings had risen to 75,000 a week — up from 9,000 a week in January. This might have something to do with the array of celebrities who’ve joined the app in 2020 - Cameo signed 5,000 names between March and June (after the app’s founder made it on Forbes 30 under 30 list!). Now, there’s over 40,000 stars (with varying degrees of fame) signed up. In June 2019 there were only 7,000 comparatively. From Lyndsey Lohan to Tony Hawk, there’s huge variety in names available now - which is little surprise considering the Covid-19 pandemic has halted many traditional revenue streams like concerts.
Recently, the app has expanded to allow one-on-one video chats (ex-Entourage star Jeremy Piven was offering these for $15,000!). Elsewhere, some are creating similar offers via other social media platforms - US-based singer-songwriter Joshua Radin, for example, is offering a pre-recorded or live personal serenade and handwritten lyrics via his website from $350. These ultra-unique and personal experiences are once-in-a-lifetime type opportunities for fans:
“Cameo for me is about the fact that someone you idolise so much actually thought about you. You never imagine these people live in the same actual lifetime/existence as you - and here they are wishing you, specifically, a happy birthday.” Jess, 30 (gifted a Cameo from Alice Cooper)
FAN-RATES & BRAND PROMOS
What’s really interesting about Cameo and similar Celeb-to-fan offerings is not only how it blurs the interaction lines between fan and celeb in a new way - but that fans are starting to connect economically with artists. Fans get to decide if shout-outs / bespoke experiences from celebs are worth their price tag - set by the celebrities themselves, who get support directly from their fans.
“Cameo, Patreon and other sites allow people to pick their own rates and see if fans agree. Social media has allowed the public closer access to celebrity. It makes sense that the public should now get to decide exactly what that access is worth.” Financial Times
Patreon (valued at $1.2bn) and OnlyFans have also reported an increase in users. (Patreon helps podcasters, writers and other creatives to raise money directly from supporters. OnlyFans, which we’ve written about before, offers a similar exchange model, but for risqué content).
Interestingly, we’ve also seen small businesses and brands use Cameo as an accessible way to secure celebrity promotions - for example Christie DeHerrera, a Colorado real estate agent, bypassed legal agreements and big price tags and paid Ice T via Cameo to record a message endorsing her saying “She’s the best in the business, she loves her work, she gets the job done. And plus, she’s a fan of Ice-T.”
A CULTURE OF GIVING
“I honestly am having fun recording these @BookCameo videos to raise money for @nokidhungry and @WCKitchen and most people are just asking for pep talks for their friends or family which is really sweet. Anyway. It's nice.” @BusyPhilipps
Some famous faces - including Mandy Moore and Busy Philipps - have joined Cameo to benefit charitable endeavours like No Kid Hungry that are helping to mitigate the social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a game-changing digital dynamic in the cultural landscape of giving, as fans can feel really good about their interactions with their heroes.
In Ireland, we’re seeing a steady rise in influencers using their digital presence for good - Rosie Connolly is one example, who, for the second year running, is operating a raffle in aid of Crumlin and Temple Street Children’s Hospitals. She’s raising hundreds of thousands of Euros.
THE DIRECT-TO-FAN BRAND
The monetisation of digital content by celebs is taken to another level when you look to the growth in the direct-to-fan brand. The Kylie Effect has inspired (and paved the way for) new age celebrities to embark on building products from their brand. Kylie Jenner’s makeup and skincare brand showed that it’s entirely possible for a brand to purely exist on the internet and grow massively - through social media.
Emma Chamberlain, for example, is a 19 year old from the US with over 9 million followers on YouTube and 11.2 million on Instagram (and a book deal). She has her own merch brand (of course) - and her own coffee brand, Chamberlain Coffee which was inspired by her own coffee order. Elsewhere, 27 year old Jamie Genevive from Scotland has been shaking up the world of make-up. She’s been seen with A-listers from Rihanna to Lizzo, and has now launched her own make-up brand Vieve.
These brands are getting fan attention and becoming successful, largely because of the digital relationship these influencers have with their fans.
The rise in Cameo shows a shift toward greater personal access to idols and celebrities. It also indicates the huge value of personalisation and the nostalgia effect. The digital content provided via apps like Cameo is completely bespoke for those who receive it. This means it’s IG ‘Feed’ material (rather than just stories) - and, importantly these days, its serious light relief.
From a brand perspective, there’s many ways to get involved in the action.
- Shake up your advocacy strategy: Is there someone on Cameo that you could tactically request a video from to (appropriately and humorously) boost a certain message?
- Provide a personalised service/interaction: Think about how you could make your ambassador more available to your fans. Could they provide a personalised service for your brand fans? For example, innocent’s recent good stuff hotline saw Irish personalities giving voice notes and videos out on request to great response.