- As the reality of living through the coronavirus pandemic sets in, people experiencing the isolation of social distancing are turning to online platforms for entertainment and comfort.
- Cameo, a video-sharing platform designed for celebrities to make personalized messages to send to fans, has witnessed a spike in activity as people acclimate to social distancing and quarantining in their homes.
- Some celebrities have been joining the platform to raise money for charities combatting the effects of the pandemic. Other public figures say they’ve joined Cameo to quell their boredom at home and connect with fans during a difficult time.
- Requests for videos have also skyrocketed, Cameo CEO Steven Galanis says, and public figures the company has been courting for years are signing up to participate.
- Ultimately, Cameo plans to parlay the company’s momentum into Cameo Con, a digital convention featuring performances and keynotes from the platform’s talent roster.
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Actor Andrew Matarazzo, who has appeared in TV shows like MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and The CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” joined the celebrity video-sharing platform Cameo a year ago. He figured it would be a simple way to connect with fans who were willing to pay for a video; through Cameo, he could send a “Happy Birthday” clip or a personal greeting without needing to worry about the logistics of distribution. But he rarely used the platform or promoted his video-sharing services to his 250,000-person following on Instagram and Twitter.
That changed two weeks ago when a global effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus took hold, spurring safety measures like “social distancing” and quarantining in homes.
“We’re in a time of isolation. A lot of people were voicing that they feel really anxious and lonely, and [fans] were sad that certain appearances were canceled,” Matarazzo told Insider. “So I started promoting my Cameo videos with that in mind, just as a way to connect with them.”
The 23-year-old, who has filmed approximately 30 Cameo videos for fans over the last week, says that using the platform has helped him cope with uncertainty and anxiety in the wake of the pandemic.
“Not only is it making me feel really good that I’m able to make a positive impact on somebody’s day, but it also makes me feel less isolated because I’m connecting to people individually,” he said. “Especially when a lot of people have been asking for positive reinforcement and encouraging words.”
Matarazzo isn’t the only one turning to cameo to address pandemic woes.
In the wake of widespread social distancing, public figures are flocking to Cameo to connect with fans, educate pandemic deniers, and raise money for causes combatting the effects of the pandemic.
From “Cheer” star Gabi Butler to “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron, known figures in the entertainment industry and social media world have recently publicized their presence on the platform.
High-profile personalities like Mandy Moore, “SNL” alum Rachel Dratch, “This Is Us” star Chris Sullivan, and the YouTube-famous chefs from Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen have said that the profits from the videos will be donated to charities like The Restaurant Workers’ Relief Fund and No Kid Hungry.
Cameo CEO and Co-Founder Steven Galanis said that the events of the last few weeks — people quarantining in their homes and observing social distancing— have resulted in unprecedented growth for the company.
“These last two weeks have been the best weeks we’ve seen as a company,” he told Insider, adding that Cameo grew 83% in the last week.
Not only has the platform witnessed what Galanis describes as “huge spikes” in demand for content — on Thursday, Cameo received 4,500 requests for videos, up from the 1,000 to 2,000 requests made on an average day — but also a notable increase in participation from high-profile figures.
“A lot of people that we’ve been chatting with, or thought for the last three years would be great fits for Cameo, are finally starting to come back,” he said.
Galanis attributes the spike in celebrity interest to the widespread cancelation of events in the entertainment industry.
“This has probably never happened before. It might never happen again. When every single athlete, actor, celebrity, comedian, musician, are all out of work at the same time,” he said. “This is an opportunity for some to raise money for charity, but, honestly, for a lot of them too, they’re out of work. And they’re looking to fill their time by doing the thing they love most, which is connecting with their fans.
He added that the platform has also witnessed a significant reduction in prices for videos — in fact, the average price per Cameo video has gone from $63 to just under $45 in the last two weeks.
While requests for content are up and some prices are reduced, some prospective Cameo bookers are finding the costs prohibitive.
Sarah Rosenthal, a writer and teacher living in Brooklyn, looked into booking a Cameo with Bon Appétit Contributing Food Editor and “Gourmet Makes” YouTube star Claire Saffitz.
“I can’t go see my mom right now, so I thought maybe I could do this nice little thing and have Claire talk to her for a minute,” she told Insider. “It was for charity, too, and I wanted to make a donation.”
Rosenthal’s plan to request a video, however, was thwarted by the $450 price tag.
“If it was less expensive, like, less then $100, I probably would have done it, especially since it’s for a good cause,” she said. “But who has $450 right now?”
While Rosenthal acknowledged that a $450 video might be an appropriate gift for someone seriously ill with COVID-19, her family’s needs were “nowhere near there,” so she abandoned the idea.
Cameo, however, plans to parlay the momentum into new ventures.
The company, Galanis said, is in talks to expand the features offered by the platform; future possibilities include one-to-one video chats with selected celebrities and group dinners via Zoom.
On April 16, the company plans to launch Cameo Con, a full-week digital convention featuring public figures from Cameo’s talent roster.
“We’re gonna be putting together a bunch of panels and keynotes and performances,” Galanis said. “We’re using this as a showcase best of cameo and we think this will be, you know, extremely fun.”
While Cameo Con has been an idea-in-progress for two or three years, Galanis says, the company decided to execute the initiative in response to the current demand for content.
“We have this really unique set of circumstances that might never happen again,” he said. “Like, what can we do to uniquely fill the void.”