Website allows celebrities to send fans personalized messages -- at any price
Snoop Dogg performs onstage at State Farm Arena on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP)
Published Monday, April 29, 2019 8:41PM EDT
Why get your favourite relative a 100th birthday message from the Queen when you can get them one from Kevin O’Leary instead?
The TV star and former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate is one of thousands of people who are marketing themselves as personal messengers through Cameo, a website that touts itself as “a platform where fans can book personalized video shoutouts from their favourite celebrities, athletes, or influencers.”
People who order Cameos can expect to receive video files fulfilling their requests within a week. The videos are also posted to that celebrity’s Cameo page by default.
It’s a place where you can get Norm Macdonald to help you recruit groomsmen, Snoop Dogg to suggest names for your video game basketball team, and Mark Messier to congratulate your hockey coach on winning a championship.
The site really does offer something for every type of fan. Toronto Blue Jays fans missing recently traded outfielder Kevin Pillar can contact him for a personalized message, Canadians of a certain age can solicit greetings from “Kids in the Hall” star Kevin McDonald, and aficionados of recent U.S. political history can request a hello from Stormy Daniels.
In O’Leary’s case, there seems to be a lot of demand for him to promote certain businesses – likely with the thinking that getting the backing of the “Shark Tank” investor could be a good marketing strategy. Eight of the nine videos currently featured on O’Leary’s profile page involve him hyping up various business ventures, including a lawn care company in Burlington, Ont., and a home electronics outfit in Oakville, Ont.
Cameo does say it will reject a request “if it is inappropriate, explicit or will damage the talent’s image.” (This would suggest that extolling the virtues of small businesses in suburban Ontario is something Kevin O’Leary sees as being perfectly in keeping with his public persona.)
The cost of a greeting can vary wildly from one celebrity to the next. O’Leary charges US$999 per message, while Gilbert Gottfried offers his well-wishes for the relatively bargain-basement price of US$150.
Celebrities are able to set their own prices based on whatever criteria they wish. A perusal of the Cameo database suggests that Caitlyn Jenner (US$2,500) may have a different motivation for being on the site than “Ghostbusters” actor Ernie Hudson (US$80), while it’s possible Bobby Hull (US$175) is trying to undercut fellow Chicago Blackhawks legend Jeremy Roenick (US$200).
While that might seem like a positive outcome for all involved, the site has also been mired in controversy. Buzzfeed News reported last December that a number of Cameo celebs, including Brett Favre and Soulja Boy, were seemingly being duped into sending messages of coded support for anti-Semitic groups. According to Buzzfeed, the videos were uploaded to other platforms and shared as signs of support for racist movements. A Cameo spokesperson told Buzzfeed that this was a “blatant misuse” of the service and all potentially anti-Semitic videos were removed from the site.