Celebrity Video Biz Pins Hopes on Facebook Viral Effort

Cameo Stars launched the beta version of its unusual service offering on Tuesday: $3 videos in which a celebrity – such as actress Carmen Electra or football star Reggie Bush – extends to your Facebook friend best wishes for events like birthdays and anniversaries. But its low-budget marketing approach to getting the service off the ground may be more interesting.


Gene Cornfield, EVP of the New York-based company, said it has used Craigslist city sites to recruit “numerous” people around the country who have at least 500 Facebook friends to post about the celebrity videos. The so-called evangelists will be compensated with cash in a fashion similar to the modest payments focus group participants receive, he said. (Focus group participants typically get under $200 for a session.)

Since Cameo Stars exists only on the Facebook platform, Cornfield explained, attempting this crowdsourcing-like strategy makes sense. “There are 500 million people there with built-in sharing,” he said. “Any marketplace of that size – where most are 13 and over – with ability to drive viral is the natural place to start.”

From there, Cornfield is leveraging the social media presences of the celebrities. In addition to Electra and Bush, his company has also signed up NFL stars Tony Romo and Drew Brees. The four celebrities will be posting about the Cameo Stars videos on Facebook and Twitter as well, Cornfield said.

Collectively, the stars have more than 1.5 million friends and followers on the two social media sites, respectively. Bush posted the following copy on Tuesday: “Check out Cameo Stars, a new app that lets me make appearances right in your Facebook page. Gonna be big! And yes, that spin is for real, no graphics! Whose cameos do you like better, mine or Brees’s?”

Meanwhile, the EVP said that more Hollywood actors will join the service as soon as next week, and multiple NFL players will emerge once pro football season kicks off in September. Cornfield said the celebrities are compensated with contracts that are based on upfront cash and future royalty payments.

“We’ve so far shot 15 others that we will be releasing over the coming days and weeks,” he said. “And we have shoots coming up scheduled in Los Angeles and New York.”

The celebrity videos run between 10 and 20 seconds, Cornfield said, and can be purchased with Facebook credits – normally equaling $3. Such credits can be purchased on the social media site with credit/debit cards and PayPal. There are more general versions of videos available for free that do not mention a birthday or other event. To be clear, the paid videos do not feature a personalized message to the recipient. Here’s the copy from one birthday message: “Hey, this is Reggie Bush. Drafting a Fantasy Football team every year is not easy, but wishing you Happy Birthday is. Happy Birthday!” In all cases, the videos appear on a user’s wall.

Cornfield suggested that a significant part of his company’s marketing and pricing strategies will be in limiting the availability of the so-called cameos. “In time, we will be introducing cameos that are either limited editions or the time in which they are available will be limited,” he said. “So, that will influence the pricing.”

Cornfield described Facebook.com ads – seemingly a natural fit for acquisition campaigns – as “part of our road map. But right now, we are gearing up for more organic growth.”

New York-based agency Noise is helping run Cameo Stars’ digital campaigns, he said.

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

Related reading