Cameo Wants to Be Among the ‘Largest Ad Makers in the World’

The platform for celebrity messages is seeing growth from small and medium-sized businesses

Snoop Dogg is just one of the thousands of celebrities you can commission to say just about anything on Cameo. Cameo

Cameo wants to expand access to the celebrity spokesperson.

They were once a fixture of local TV spots, usually featuring linemen hawking sofas, or a pitcher making the pitch for used cars. In recent years, celebrity endorsements have been restricted to the businesses with the deepest pockets—namely, major corporations. But Cameo wants to broaden the horizons of pitchmen and spokespeople to more small and medium-sized businesses—and, in doing so, create a new revenue stream.

Cameo is best known as a platform that lets celebrities from A-list to D-list sell customizable video messages to fans. First launched in 2017, the platform has exploded in popularity during the pandemic, aided in part by a rush of unemployed talent looking for work and a recalibration of advertising aesthetics. (After all, a selfie from Cameo doesn’t look as bad when Seth Meyers is hosting Late Night from his home.)

Last week, the platform hit 1 million unique customers, who have purchased 1.5 million videos from celebrities ranging from David Hasselhoff ($500) to Snoop Dogg ($900) to disgraced former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich ($80). 

Roughly 5% of the platform’s revenue comes from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—without Cameo having advertised its platform directly to them—but leadership believes that number could double. As such, it is investing and hiring to aid in this growth, creating a team of five employees to support this segment specifically within the last two months.

To get a sense of how large the market could be, Facebook touts nearly 10 million SMBs among its advertising roster globally, which is why July’s advertising boycott involving the likes of Adidas and Coca-Cola had little effect on the company’s revenue. Tripadvisor also has an ad product for SMBs, which rolled out last year (the company declined to share revenue figures with Adweek).

“The gap between 100,000 [advertisers] and 10 million comes from small to intermediate-sized businesses,” said Rich Greenfield, partner at media research firm LightShed Partners, calling it “a whole new category of spending.”

For example, 20 auto dealers across the U.S. might spend as much as one blue-chip brand seeking a partnership with the platform. The difference is that without Cameo, those dealers might not be able afford a commercial shoot at all, let alone a chance to nab a celebrity spokesperson.

“You could have every auto dealer in the U.S. buying Cameos for local athletes a couple times a week,” said Arthur Leopold, Cameo’s chief business officer. “Their budgets are more limited but, obviously, there are a lot more of them.”

The example of the auto dealer needing a pitchman is what led to Cameo creating its self-service product for SMBs. The company noticed that former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, an early adopter of Cameo, was declining pitches from local dealerships in Wisconsin. The company reached out and was told that Favre wasn’t against such partnerships, but felt they should cost more than the typical fan shoutout. Now, small businesses can get a pitch from Favre for $10,000, as opposed to $400 for an average fan shoutout.

Cameo is also seeking to boost its brand partnerships business, a segment aimed at brands willing to spend at least $250,000. In late April, the platform partnered with tequila brand Don Julio for a virtual Cinco de Mayo celebration that raised money for restaurant industry workers during the pandemic. In May, one of the fictional protagonists from the Call of Duty video game franchises was available on the platform to raise money for a veterans charity.

@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.