We look at how and why celebrities are raising vital funds with Cameo
The entertainment industry has seen significant changes since the onset of COVID-19. Not only has production for TV, film, and theatre slowed almost to stand still, the way in which we consume media has shifted. With a lack of live content on TV and the cancellation of live performances, our need to see live entertainment is increasingly fulfilled online.
For the big names of film and TV, the opportunities to connect with their audiences have reduced. With time on their hands as new projects are delayed or cancelled, many are turning to Cameo. Some days the platform is seeing more than double the demand for videos from fans who are willing to pay for a personalised snippet from their favourite names.
Cameo’s concept is simple: book a celebrity to record a short personalised message for you or for someone else. Costs vary from £1,875 for a video from Caitlyn Jenner down to £7.50 for one from the self-styled ‘Cameo Santa’.
At a time when loneliness and mental health difficulties have become secondary and tertiary epidemics to COVID-19 itself, we are all thinking about ways to help each other feel more connected and valued.
Sending a Cameo is just another way to make someone we care about smile. For celebrities, as well as an additional income stream, it has become a place to connect with fans and support the causes they care about – a way to use their celebrity for good during the crisis.
Since the onset of the Pandemic, a number of platforms have released new functionality to help facilitate online fundraising. This drive to do good in bad times is also evident in the ‘Cameo for Charity’ offering.
In 2020, the platform organised a three-day live virtual event, Cameo Cares, on a dedicated website. The event featured comedy and live Q&As with a host of big names from singer/songwriter Mandy Moore to skateboarder Tony Hawk. It raised $725,000 for charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.
Celebrities can choose to support charities individually. Cameo works on a commission model where the artist takes 75% and the platform takes 25%. However, the artist can also choose to donate earnings to charity. If an artist is supporting a charity, a small red flag will appear in the corner of their profile picture.
The charity sector has long-debated whether or not celebrities and creators should be paid when they support a cause.
Paying a celebrity guarantees that you can book them and reduces the likelihood that they will need to pull out of the arrangement. However, part of the value in collaborating with a big name is that their genuine passion for your organisation is evident in any content they produce for you. Audiences are quick to recognise when someone isn’t speaking or acting authentically.
There can also be a negative reaction from the public and media if it is discovered that charities are paying for celeb endorsement rather than accepting a gift in kind.
A poll for Channel 4’s Dispatches programmes showed the three-quarters of Brits would be less likely to support a charity if they knew it was paying thousands of pounds for celebrity support.
The cost of a Cameo video can be a matter of a few pounds or a few hundred pounds – should an investment of this size be perceived in the same way?
In 2020, a number of UK local councils used Cameo videos as part of their coronavirus public health campaigns to try to reach younger audiences with the stay home and social distancing messages. Oldham Council booked Inbetweeners star, Jay Cartwright, for under £35 to talk about the risks of COVID-19. The video received thousands of views from the audience they were targeting.
When it comes to charities following the same approach, talent advocacy specialist, Paul Cullen says: “Charities need to be cautious about becoming a Cameo customer. If you purchase a message as a charity, you are effectively paying a fee for that celebrity’s support which is a no-no in my book. Potential for charities may be in partnering with a celeb who is willing to donate a percentage of each message fee, or a take-over day where they donate 100% of their income.
“It will require some management so you will need to decide if the return on investment and impact is higher than utilising that celebrity support in another way.”
There is certainly an opportunity for charities with Cameo, but creative thinking may be required to make the most of it.