This is an email interview that we had with Dene Schonknecht, CEO of ACE and co-founder Sabrina Meier. ACE stands for Authentic Celebrity Experiences, and the newly-launched platform aims to virtually connect fans and celebrities by offering fans personalised video messages from their favourite celebrities.
Tell me a bit about your company. What is it about, how and when did it all start, and how much have you grown since then?
Dene: ACE (www.ace.video) is a new consumer website which allows consumers to book short, personalised video messages from their favourite Film, TV, music, sports, & social stars for a fee. Want Kumar to send a message to your mother to help her through quarantine? Need a personalised message for your daughter from her favourite Disney Princess? These are just some of the ways people are using ACE today. We began working on this in October 2019, and launched the service in February 2020.
Tell me about the celebrities that you currently have on board.
Sabrina: We launched with 16 celebrities on the platform – and have been adding 3-4 new talents per week. So we have grown to 50+ now. We have a range of talent from Actors, Comedians, DJs, Hosts, Models, Singers etc.
What do you mean by “celebrities”? Is it mostly Instagram influencers and YouTubers, or are we looking at big-name stars like say, JJ Lin? Give me an idea of the range here.
Dene: We believe that it’s up to consumers to decide if someone is worth booking a video from. We provide the platform to connect famous people to their fans, and don’t make too much judgement on why or how someone has built their fame. Having said that, we do vet every application to join as a star on our platform – and we use their social media reach as a good gauge as to whether the talent will have the appeal & reach to get consumer bookings from fans.
You spoke of the success of a similar platform, Cameo, in the US. Do you think that you’ll find similar success in Southeast Asia? What kind of demand are you seeing for such a service in this region?
Dene: Yes, Cameo has done a great job in the US – we are inspired by them. So Cameo has proven this model works, but we feel we are better positioned to understand and then adapt this concept for Asia. At the very least Asian consumers will want locally relevant talent & a service that is in their local language and currency. This is how we will succeed in Asia.
Why Southeast Asia in particular? Is there anything special about influencer or celebrity culture in Southeast Asia?
Dene: Well, being based in Singapore, we have an obvious home advantage here. So we have been able to quickly sign up some amazing talent here. Also, the Philippines is a great example of another market we have seen early success – and what’s unique about the Philippines is that they have a strong culture of celebrity, coupled with probably the highest engagement (in terms of time spent) on social media. These 2 things make it a great market for us.
What’s the range that customers can expect to pay for your celebrities’ services, and what exactly do they get for that money?
Sabrina: A personalised video from one of our talent is typically 1-2 mins long and the value is in the surprise & delight factor, because very often these videos are being bought as a gift for someone. We let the talent on our platform set their own price – but we try to guide them with advice and a range to consider. The average price across all our talent is around SGD$55 currently.
Tell me a bit about your business model here. How much of a cut do celebrities receive? Is there anything in place to ensure that you promote and support local, lesser-known celebrities such that they do not get overshadowed by other big-name stars on your platform? Is this something that you think is important?
Dene: As Sabrina mentioned, our talent set their own price – and we let them keep 75% of that. In terms of supporting local, lesser-known talent – we are very open to anyone being on our platform if they have a fanbase that will be interested in booking them. Anyone can apply to be a star on ACE (https://www.ace.video/apply-ace-talent). It’s ultimately up to them to promote their availability on ACE by posting on social media they are available for a personalised video. We don’t view this as a competitive situation with bigger name talent because everyone has heroes for different reasons & situations – and it’s up to them to determine who they want to hear from! Fans can also request anyone that we perhaps haven’t yet signed up by requesting them here: https://www.ace.video/ask-for-a-star
You talked about stars applying to your platform, and fan suggestions. Do you actively seek out stars as well?
Dene: Yes, absolutely! We are always on the hunt for additional talent across the region.
You mentioned that it’s up to celebrities to promote their availability on ACE. Does ACE provide a platform for promotion or aid in celebrities’ promotion in any way? What benefits do celebrities get from signing on to your platform rather than providing this service on their own?
Dene: We do run campaigns ourselves to promote our talent – usually around events & holidays. For example Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc. We also provide our talent with engaging assets to promote themselves (and ACE) to their fans. For example, we are experimenting with short, fun quizzes for some of our talent. Here is an example: https://app.involve.me/acevideo/ming-bridges-qui
What do you think your service has to offer, in the current backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sabrina: An ACE video has the ability to really brighten someone’s day during these crazy times. We are all consuming more content online – and this is a great way to be entertained. Celebrities are also using this downtime to do ACE videos to stay connected with fans, while earning a bit of extra cash at the same time.
How and when can our readers start using your platform, and do you have anything that you would like to say to them?
Dene: I’d encourage your readers to head to https://www.ace.video/, browse our stars – and then get creative with thinking of messages they may want to send to colleagues, friends or family. It may be an occasion they want to celebrate (birthday, anniversary, etc.) or just to get someone’s attention & brighten their day.
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