When Steven Gala­nis saw how tak­ing a selfie with your most beloved star had become the new au­to­graph, he hit upon a brain­wave – a web­site that al­lows users pay celebri­ties to record per­son­alised video mes­sages

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - ONLINE - LIAM GERAGHTY

For as long as there’s been pen and pa­per, au­to­graphs have been sought af­ter. Throngs of peo­ple gath­ered out­side glitzy film pre­mieres or the­atre side doors in the hopes of get­ting the John Han­cock of their idols. It was a given that if you were a celebrity it just came with the job. At some point though, the moneti­sa­tion of au­to­graphs be­gan. Deal­ers crept amongst the fans try­ing to get as many sig­na­tures as pos­si­ble so they could flog them at auc­tions and on eBay. Celebri­ties be­came a lit­tle more cau­tious. In fact, Steve Martin, when asked for an au­to­graph, would fa­mously hand out busi­ness cards that read: “This cer­ti­fies that you have had a per­sonal en­counter with me and that you found me warm, po­lite, in­tel­li­gent and funny.”

In re­cent years, how­ever, our phones have re­placed the au­to­graph book – some­thing that Steven Gala­nis no­ticed. “We had the idea that self­ies are the new au­to­graph, right, so when you see some­one fa­mous, you want to take a pic­ture with them. You don’t pull a Sharpie out any more.” Gala­nis is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cameo – a web­site that al­lows users to pay celebri­ties to make per­son­alised video mes­sages. “My co-founder Martin Blen­cowe was an NFL agent – Amer­i­can foot­ball – and he had this player that was very pop­u­lar with the fans but wasn’t pop­u­lar with busi­ness en­dorse­ments, and any time he would go out to din­ner with him, every­body would want to take a selfie with him. But he couldn’t get any brands that would pay to make him a spokesper­son, or an en­dorse­ment, so we re­ally thought there was this ar­bi­trage op­por­tu­nity be­tween fame and the abil­ity to mon­e­tise and, re­ally, we thought that there was an op­por­tu­nity to help fans have a more gen­uine con­nec­tion with their favourite peo­ple, and that’s kind of where the idea for Cameo was born.”

The process is straight­for­ward. You se­lect the celebrity you want; you type out a few words ask­ing them to say happy birth­day or merry Christ­mas to a friend. You pep­per the mes­sage with some per­sonal de­tails, hit send and your cho­sen celeb has seven days to record a video on their phone and send it back to you through Cameo.

The web­site is fas­ci­nat­ing to browse. From ac­tors to drag queens and from YouTu­bers to Olympic gold medal­lists, there are thou­sands to choose from. The price for a video is de­ter­mined by the celebrity. It varies wildly. The prici­est celeb is Cait­lyn Jen­ner, from whom a per­son­alised mes­sage will wing its way to your in­box for a cool $2,500. You can bag Wes­ley Snipes at $500 or Stormy Daniels at $250 but prices go all the way down – some lesser-known names will even do it for free.

Level of celebrity

Some friends I men­tioned the ser­vice to balked at the idea, say­ing it was full of cand d-lis­ters. I put that to Gala­nis.

“Look, I mean at the end of the day, one per­son’s c-lis­ter might be some­one else’s favourite per­son in the whole world, right? Every­body that I know has some ran­dom band that they love that maybe isn’t main­stream, but they like that band more than any­body else. Or any sports fan might have one player that, like, maybe they scored a goal in the one game they went to, and they buy that jersey for the rest of their life, like, that be­comes their per­son.”

He also ar­gues there are some celebri­ties that ev­ery­one fol­lows out of cu­rios­ity – a Kim Kar­dashian or LeBron James – but that for ev­ery 200 mil­lion fol­low­ers they might have, there’s a smaller num­ber of peo­ple who re­ally, re­ally like them. “If you have 20,000 fol­low­ers, those 20,000 might like

you just as much as Kim Kar­dashian’s top 20,000 fol­low­ers like her. In some ways, who you buy on Cameo is al­most a re­flec­tion of how well you know the friend that you’re buy­ing it for. It’s one thing to get every­body Brad Pitt, or Ge­orge Clooney – but if you know some ac­tor from some ran­dom TV show that we watched just as bud­dies drink­ing beer to­gether, it shows how well I know you. So from my per­spec­tive, we never think about a-list, b-list, c-list, but one thing we’ve learned is that nostal­gia is ac­tu­ally a re­ally big seller.”

He’s not wrong there. Cameo is full of celebs who will have you pin­ing for your youth – in­clud­ing Melissa Joan Hart, aka Sab­rina the Teenage Witch, and Bob West, the voice of Bar­ney the Di­nosaur. Even vet­eran voice ac­tor Jim Cum­mings is ready to give you a per­son­alised video in the voice of Win­nie the Pooh. For the record, Brad and Ge­orge are not on Cameo. Yet.

There is a fair share of Ir­ish peo­ple on the site too. Ro­nan Keat­ing, Keith Duffy and Jed­ward are all on it, although are cur­rently listed as “tem­po­rar­ily un­avail­able”. Ir­ish wrestlers Ses­sion Moth Martina and Jor­dan Devlin are there, as is Mon­aghan ac­tor and star of Out­lander Caitri­ona Balfe. Kerry ac­tor Ti­mothy V Mur­phy of Sons of An­ar­chy does a lot of his videos as his char­ac­ter from the show. “Yeah, Sons of An­ar­chy would be big there a cou­ple of years ago,” he says. “I play one of the bad guys on it and they seem to like that char­ac­ter. He’s an Ir­ish arms dealer, and they think that’s cool, to keep do­ing that in char­ac­ter.”

Mur­phy sees Cameo as an ex­ten­sion of the way many ac­tors make a liv­ing from the Comic Con cir­cuit. “It’s like re­venge of the nerds, re­ally. When I was grow­ing up there was no such thing as su­per­hero movies, they’d be laughed at or scoffed at. Peo­ple would laugh at, you know, fol­low­ers of Star Trek dress­ing up or, you know, Star Wars was another one. Then all of a sud­den Stan Lee and the Marvel he­roes be­came huge and you had Comic Cons all over the place. And where Comic Cons were just a bunch of what were con­sid­ered nerds or weirdos by the gen­eral pop­u­lace, now are be­com­ing the main­stream for the cool peo­ple.

“At Comic Cons now you have ev­ery movie and ev­ery TV show in the world rep­re­sented. And a lot of the ac­tors very much do stuff like . . . I don’t know, sci-fi or su­per­nat­u­ral or dystopian kind of stuff.

They’re now mak­ing a for­tune on these Comic Cons . . . some ac­tors on it I know would take lower than they ex­pected [for their TV roles] but the ar­gu­ment on the TV pro­duc­ers’ side was, you’re guar­an­teed to make a for­tune in these Comic Cons, or con­ven­tions . . .”

The per­son­alised video is still a rel­a­tively new skill for celebs to hone. Some are quite stiff and read the in­for­ma­tion you’ve sent them ver­ba­tim. The savvier celebri­ties take the scant bit of in­for­ma­tion and im­pro­vise. I once had John Chal­lis, aka Boy­cie from Only Fools and Horses, do a video for my dad’s 70th birth­day (al­beit from a ri­val site – Cele­bVM) and he did the whole thing in char­ac­ter.

“Good day to you Bill, Boy­cie here,” he started. He paused, looked at his watch. “C’mon Mar­lene! We’re just off to the Nag’s Head for a snifter with Del and the gang so we’ll raise a glass to you! Oh and my tip for the Cur­ragh is this – stay at home and save your money. You know it makes sense!” he cack­led.

In Cameo’s early days celebri­ties took some con­vinc­ing to join but now, Gala­nis says, it’s all word of mouth. “The big­gest one this year was Snoop Dogg. He’s such a global icon so that was just so on-brand. That’s gonna be hard to beat. When Char­lie Sheen joined, too, it was like, this is re­ally cool. We get so many amaz­ing peo­ple that, last year if you told me they’d be on . . . I’m like, holy s**t, that’s in­cred­i­ble. And now it’s just kind of like, ev­ery day, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. It’s the new au­to­graph.”


We thought that there was an op­por­tu­nity to help fans have a more gen­uine con­nec­tion with their favourite peo­ple, and that’s kind of where the idea for Cameo was born

Cameo founders Steven Gala­nis, Devon Townsend and Martin Blen­cowe

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.