Feature Article: Advertising Age: Bob Garfield
A few years back, I had a nice call from Kato Kaelin.
It was a birthday gift from a friend with a congenital surplus of irony. He thought it would be hilarious to pay 50 bucks or whatever to get me in touch with a G-list “celebrity” who was celebrated in approximately the way Kaelin’s landlord, O.J. Simpson, was innocent.
It was such an absurd little interlude, because all I could see in my mind’s eye was this serial loser sitting in some inner circle of Has-Been Hell with a list of nine names and ticking down the list one by one. Because I am a man with a congenital surplus of empathy, I hoped that Kaelin salvaged some shred of dignity by embracing the absurdity, too.
But probably I was missing the point — the point being that there was an actual market for out-of-the-blue phone calls from somebody who became recognizable as a witness at a televised murder trial.
Because P.T. Barnum and H.L. Mencken and Perez Hilton are all correct.
Enter, then, Shoutomatic. It is one of a half dozen web-based apps for recording audio status updates on Twitter or Facebook. It’s a handy little gadget, enabling anyone to share their uninteresting observations and/or travel plans with their own voice. “About to eat a scrumptious falafel” is fascinating in its own right; just imagine adding the dimension of sound.
The thing about Shoutomatic, though, is its unique selling proposition — namely, audio status messages as a unique selling engine.
“So, in other words,” explains Norm Levy, founder of Shoutomatic, “you can hire Bo Bice to say, ‘Hey, this is Bo Bice. I’m walking out of the studio right now and sitting back with a cold Coke in my hands and catching up with my e-mails and my tweets.'” Bo Bice being the rock ‘n’ roller who finished runner-up to Carrie Underwood on “American Idol” in 2005. He is just one of the Shoutomatic galaxy of stars.
“We have Danny Bonaduce,” Levy says. “You remember him from ‘The Partridge Family.’ We have Chuck D from Public Enemy. We have Bradley Arnold, who is the lead singer from 3 Doors Down. We have a person named Jasmine V, and she is the girl that’s in Justin Bieber’s new video and she has over 200,000 Twitter followers. We have Sean Kingston. We have Iyaz. We have Krayzie Bone, legendary rapper.”
OK, so Vanity Fair’s Oscars after-party the roster it’s not. And the Federal Trade Commission might wish to have a word with the Coca-Cola Co. if it is compensating Bo Bice for his endorsement without proper disclosure. And maybe Shoutomatic is the very antithesis of the Listenomics we should all be embracing. Still, me, I’m betting on Norm Levy — because falafel tweets are boring when they come from your colleague in risk management, but they are something else altogether in the voice of the great Danny Bonaduce.
Who, I assure you, will not long be the celebrity gold standard for audio status updates. Until such time as Clooney comes aboard, though, Levy has another profit center.
“You go to [a celebrity's] profile,” he says. “There’s a ‘buy’ button and a dialogue box there to tell Bo Bice what to say to your wife, to you daughter: ‘Hey, this is Bo Bice with a shout-out from Sweet Home Alabama, wishing you a very special happy birthday.'”
I just bought a Bo Bice tweet myself for $9.99. Sending it to @RealKatoKaelin. Title: “What circle you in?” Text: “See you on digital cable. Bo.”