Transcript – A Personalized Experience: How AI is Revolutionizing the Way Celebrities Connect with Fans, featuring Cameo
SEASON 3 EPISODE 01
“JT: A product, his work, people like and brands like, so I think the AI voice is a massive, massive part of that.”
[00:00:09] Welcome to Varitone’s Adventures in AI, a worldwide podcast that dives into the many ways technology and artificial intelligence is shaping our future for the better. I'm your host Magen Mintchev. I'm here with Jim Terpstra, who is the Vice President of Corporate Development at Cameo.
Varitone disclaims any responsibility for any statement of guests in the podcast. The views expressed in this podcast are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of their tone or its directors, officers or employees.
[00:00:38] MM: Thank you for joining the Adventures in AI podcast, Jim.
[00:00:41] JT: No problem. I'm very, very excited about it. It's going to be a fun chat.
[00:00:45] MM: You work for Cameo. You are the Vice President of Corporate Development. Cameo is a video sharing website that allows celebrities to send these personalized video messages to fans. We're talking celebrities like Snoop Dogg, cast members from Stranger Things, even reality TV shows like Real Housewives and, personally my favorite back in the day, Jersey Shore.
This is super cool, and a great way to really connect with fans and celebrities. You're taking it one step further than social media platforms. Why do you think that there is a need for something like this?
[00:01:20] JT: You're exactly right. Social media has allowed fans to have a much better view into celebrity lives. It's been a way that celebrities can interact with their fans. But what Cameo has done is exactly as you stated it, which is taking it a step farther. What's really cool about the platform is, I'm sure you and a lot of people have seen actual Cameo videos from celebrities, but I think the real way to see what motivates us is to actually look at reaction videos.
It's something that we focused on showing both internally and externally more, but when you see somebody who receives a Cameo, who has just a moment of like, “How is this possible?” when they see a celebrity or somebody that they're a fan of, which our celebrity definition has gotten pretty broad at this point, it's just a really cool thing.
We call them the magical moments. It really is magical. People laugh, they cry, they have a lot of different reactions, but it's always usually shock and awe. If that thing that is just really special that we've been able to provide and we continue to try to find more ways to do it, but it's just unique. You can't get that relationship anywhere else. It's good for talent, because they can have amazing ways to connect with their broad fans, super fans, etc. But from a consumer fan perspective, there's just nowhere else that they can find it.
It's really created some special moments for people. It's a fun product. It's something that has just been in more challenging and amazing accomplishment for the company, because the vision was exactly that. Our founders had a moment where they knew a celebrity or an athlete and sent a video for somebody for having a baby, a congratulations video. It was like an amazing reaction. That was when the light bulb went off. They're like, “We should do this for everybody.” It's a cool story and a really cool product.
[00:03:11] MM: Yeah, very cool story. Very cool product. As you were talking I was thinking about my shock and aha moment, if I were to ever hear from Jim Carrey. He is my favorite celebrity of all time. Dumb and Dumber is my favorite movie. If ever he's on the platform, I've already checked, he's not, but I do know that you even have impersonators on there. Is that right?
[00:03:33] JT: Yeah. People have found a lot of unique ways to use the platform. We have voice actors, we have impersonators, we have broad creators, we have celebrities, athletes. We even have artists that will do like caricature for you. You can send a picture to them, next thing you get a Cameo back with the music and theme, while he's drawing a digital caricature. There's a lot of ways to use the platform that a lot of people don't realize. We find all the time people using in ways that we didn't realize. Its breadth is pretty wide at this point.
[00:04:05] MM: That is so awesome. We've talked about what it is, but we haven't talked about how the process actually works. Can you talk to us about that?
[00:04:13] JT: Yeah. From a consumer perspective, it's actually really easy. It's as simple as going to any other marketplace that you search for the talent you like. You can browse through pages and pages of talent. You can look by TV show, by movie, by teams, and any way you want. But once you find the talent, it takes minutes to type in the description of what you'd like to request, what you'd like them to address. Within seven days, you get a video back that you can send to whoever you're buying it for, whether it's a birthday, or a holiday, any other occasion, or just for yourself as well.
We've also broadened and have done something, we're now in the merchandise business. So we can do a lot of physical products as well as the Cameos and that, too. It's a very simple process. A little more complex in the back end of how we pull it off as a company, but from a consumer perspective, we've made it very, very simple and easy and quick.
[00:05:05] MM: Can you talk a little bit about the back end process for you? How you guys do pull it off as a company?
[00:05:11] JT: Yeah. So we've got a fairly lean team, but with that team, we've been able to get relationships with over 50,000 talents, which over the next year or so is likely to get way, way larger as we broaden the talent that we work with. But we have direct relationships with all of them.
So we make the product for the talent side as easy as possible to use as well. They've got things like teleprompters and different things to make their experience fun and easy, as well, but ultimately, we just make the connections. We've built a platform that is easy for the talent to get the request to fulfill them.
We are blending it with things like merchandise, as I mentioned now. We also have a focus on more enterprise business as well, where talent can also receive and fulfill different promotional and marketing type videos that has opened up a whole new world for them from our platform.
It's a website, it's an app, it's a white glove service for talent and fans. I think, at this point, we're somewhere between 100 and 200 people, when everybody works really hard to pull all that off. It's a combination of things that we have just built the right tools for, to make it easy.
[00:06:23] MM: That's amazing. I love it. It isn't just for fans, either. Cameo can also be used by businesses or for businesses and even events, too. How does that work?
[00:06:33] JT: Yeah. It works, similarly. How we figured that out is, I think the story initially was that we saw that there were some users that were just booking a lot of Cameos. We found that there were just businesses that were booking them for things like internal promotions, or company events, or for marketing purposes. I think it might have been Brett Favre, the former NFL quarterback who we tested it with initially.
We just put a “For Business” button on his page. It was for a higher price, because it was for a promotional purpose. Next thing you know, he was getting booked, and it was car dealerships in Wisconsin and different places who all of a sudden had the ability to have an actual production from Brett Favre in their TV commercials or on their social media. It spread from there.
We turned it into an actual part of our business. It's something that talent loves, because it's an easy way for them to get into the social media world and working with brands that doesn't take to normal working with managers and in agencies, in everything that can be complex for something as simple as a social media post. It's opened up a whole new world for them that’s easy, but also for brands. It's opened up them to our talent base for things like that and very easy as well, but just as consumers can get a video in seven days or less.
Brands can do the same. Then they can take that and use it in a number of ways. It was something that we stumbled upon, but his turned into something that has a great product market fit and something that is made the talent way more available to a lot of brands than what happened before. It's definitely something that we are leaning heavily into.
[00:08:12] MM: Now as we both know, Cameo can be used by parents and other loved ones for kids to bring a smile to their faces for certain milestones in their lives, holidays, birthdays, other celebrations. What was your personal reaction when this project Cameo for kids came up between Veritone and Cameo?
[00:08:33] JT: Yeah. This was very exciting for me for a number of reasons. Over the last year, year and a half, we tested, in less scalable ways, a similar product to what Cameo Kids is today. We just saw the same reactions that we get from our broader consumer base, we saw from kids.
We leaned into it initially, because there are ways that kids have benefited from Cameo, which is we have people who put puppets on or, as I mentioned, characters and different things. We had a view into how kids reacted to some of this stuff. It's something we've thought a lot about, because our platform generally wasn't aimed at kids or parents. As we tested it, it was just very clear that we saw the same thing. We saw kids cry, we saw them be happy. They wanted to watch these things 50 times.
When we decided to lean in more heavily is when I got involved in, it was one, exciting, because I just see the potential. I think it's massive. I'm also a fairly new dad of two. I've got two kids under two. It's a little bit of a passion project for me as well. I just went headfirst and got into the trenches and have worked very closely since we started pushing this forward.
It wasn't until a few months into it when I just realized that what I thought was a huge opportunity was even bigger once we started working with the voice teams and Veritone, and knowing where those technologies are going. There's just a whole world out there that we have to uncover.
The product as it is today is amazing. It's already creating all these magical moments for kids that we have aimed at, but the sky's the limit. There are so many different directions. I think that the toughest thing for us to do is to be patient while a lot of things get built out over time. We work with more IP owners and this technology continues to get better, because there's just a lot of exciting stuff. That's a long way to say that this has been extremely exciting for me from a number of angles and looking forward to continue to push this forward with other IP owners, with the Veritone’s of the world, and everybody who's been involved for the past few months to get it off the ground.
[00:10:38] MM: That's awesome. Yeah, from a professional standpoint, I was like, “Wow, this is so neat that they're doing this.” Then from a personal standpoint, I'm a mother of two boys. I think that this is pretty cool. I mean, we've got or you guys have Cocomelon, there is Santa, Blippi. My kids love Santa and Blippi. I think they would definitely flip if they heard a personalized video from their favorite characters.
[00:11:02] JT: Well, let me know. Let me know your kids names and what characters and we'll make sure that you get a few of them, if you want.
[00:11:07] MM: I love it.
[00:11:08] JT: Yeah. Those are the characters we have today. One thing we've seen since the launch is that consumers are loving it, but the interest and intrigue from just the kids character in IP world is also been pretty strong. It shows that we're on the right track. We've got a lot more to do over the next year and excited to get more and more IP on the platform as we move forward.
[00:11:31] MM: With the kids component, you did mention Cameo working with the voice team at Veritone, so it is powered by artificial intelligence. This, of course, enables greater scale by removing the need to manually record each Cameo message while of course retaining the authenticity of the celebrity character or the brand. Why do you think this is important for the consumer, for Cameo and even for the character?
[00:11:58] JT: Yeah. It's a good question. I think one that having the AI voice is allowing us to build a product that is infinitely scalable. The followings that a lot of these characters have are in the hundreds of millions. We need a product that allows us to potentially deliver that many Cameos.
From a consumer perspective, we want to be able to meet their needs, so that that allows us to do that. I think from Cameos perspective, we need to be able to fulfill that. We are not able to have kids acting like talent in the background doing these Cameos. That is not the way things work. It's just a really cool opportunity for everybody.
Also, just from the IP perspective, it's just a different ways to monetize their characters in a way that hasn't been possible before. We've consistently heard the same thing when talking to brands, is that this is a hole for them. That they have wanted something authentic and personal, that they can deliver to their fans and kids who watch their shows. This is that thing that hasn't existed outside of different ways where you can have like embroidered thing on a shirt or something that was more of in the physical world, but from a digital perspective, this is unique. I think we've shown that it is a product that has worked, that people like and brands like. I think the AI voice is a massive, massive part of that.
The other thing I'll note too, just the way the product works is also something that operates at the moment. It is a, for lack of a better term, a sophisticated madlib, where there's a lot of flexibility and optionality for the consumer. There's also a lot of control on the brand side from a content perspective, because there's obviously concerns on brand reputation and things like that.
Where from our platform, usually we have the talent who are doing the Cameo so they control what they say and how they want to say it. So we needed to create something in the animated world that allowed that as well. We built this in a way that suits both things. It's authentic, and it's personal from the fan perspective, but it's also done in a way that allows the branch to have control over the content as well.
[00:14:02] MM: Yeah. I think what we're really talking about here overall is it just comes down to personalization. What do you think your predictions are for personalization and 2023? What does the future hold for Cameo and Cameo Kids? Do you think that we can expect more characters and even more options to support different milestones in children's lives?
[00:14:25] JT: Yeah, for sure. From a kid's perspective, we are aiming to onboard as many characters as we can. I think I would expect us to have two, three, four times what we have on the platform now. In 2023 we're going to keep pushing there, but it's also not just more characters. It is going to be more occasions for holidays.
There's a lot of moments in the year that are important for families and kids. There's Valentine's Day, there's Easter, there's summer break. There's different things like that, but there's also occasions like bedtime and potty training and tooth brushing and just general, “We love you” and “Get well.” There's all these different things that we want parents to be able to get something for kids that either make those moments better or help them get through it, if they're sick.
We're aiming to have this at a price point where parents can do that for kids whenever they want. You will see a lot more coming out over the next year. We’ll continue to evolve. It just personalization in general, I think we're going to continue to learn how to make these character Cameos even more personal. Some of that will be driven by new technologies or technologies getting better, but we will also just be more creative with what we've already done.
Otherwise, from a cameo perspective more broadly, as you said at the beginning, social media has its limitations in terms of how personalized it can be. We're capturing and creating just that, that connection that hasn't existed and read over the past couple of years, tried a number of different ways that we can make those connections.
I think in 2023, you'll see a lot of that coming together in a way that really changes the way that people view Cameo. We're basically taking all the learnings and we'll have a very cohesive product that spans digital and physical in a way that is, as we've mentioned, authentic and personal. So it's going to be an exciting year for us.
[00:16:13] MM: Yeah. It is wild that we have something like this. I never would have guessed that if you would have asked me even five, 10, I don't even know how many years ago that we would be at this point, very cool.
I do wish that this was around back when both my boys were being potty trained, as you said, that would have been probably very helpful. I mean, we're battling the flu season. I would love to have characters talking to them being like, “You've got this. You're big boy. You're brave. You can get through this.” Basically saying everything that I say, but in one of their favorite characters form.
[00:16:49] JT: Yeah, yeah. As we've been launching this, I've been making videos for my son from a test perspective. I've unfortunately gotten him probably too used to it. We have done the bedtime, we have done the sickness. I can say firsthand that it works and he loves it. He wants to watch them all the time. It's a very cool, very cool thing.
[00:17:08] MM: I love it. This is awesome. Thank you for all the great work that you're doing, Jim. It's wonderful that we're able to work alongside with you. I appreciate your time on Adventures in AI Podcast.
At the time of this recording of this podcast episode, we are actually live in Las Vegas at the CES or Consumer Electronics Show. We are showcasing our partnership with Cameo Kids. If you happen to be in the area during this time, swing by the CES show and learn more about this platform and what it entails.
[00:17:45] MM: This has been another episode of Veritone’s Adventures in AI, a worldwide podcast that dives into the many ways technology and artificial intelligence is shaping our future for the better. Talk with you next time.
VP, Corporate Development, Cameo