“They think it’s super cool and start booking their heroes.”

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses, common areas and a number of public facilities were closed. During the Circuit Breaker – a period where travelling outside was only limited to individuals working in essential services or people on grocery-trips or runs – Singapore became a ghost-town of sorts. Suddenly, everyone was inside, playing their part to curb further spread and development of the novel coronavirus, and #flattenthecurve.

This includes public figures, such as well-loved celebrities and media personalities. No longer able to perform live and carry on with gigs, special stages and collective showcases, many Singaporean musicians live-streamed their performances, celebrities took to Instagram Live, and actors continued to share parts of their daily routines to faithful supporters on their social media platforms.

“We absolutely want the fans who purchase a personalised video to share it on WhatsApp or Instagram. We understand that this is a huge part of the appeal – and taps into another basic human desire – ‘social signalling.”

CEO Dene Schonknecht and co-founder Sabrina Meier, ACE

One such platform is in the form of Authentic Celebrity Experience, or ACE for short. “We launched ACE because it is the perfect intersection between age old social dynamics of celebrity & the most powerful new consumer internet trends.” The platform enables fans to request for a celebrity to answer a burning question, sing a song, provide advice or simply say a message for a maximum of 2 minutes. The platform operates on a direct-to-consumer purchase model, allowing Singaporeans to purchase a personalised video to keep and share at their own discretion.

CEO Dene and co-founder Sabrina share that “We started this business before COVID-19 impacted the world”, with the aim of revolutionising the typical meet-and-greet mechanism between fans and their favourite superstars. However, due to Covid-19’s impact and consequent safety measures, ACE has become even more relevant, in creating an authentic and individualised experience despite being unable to host large-scale fan-meets. “We believe it stays relevant even beyond lockdown measures as everyone has heroes (they want to stay connected with) – and always will!”

However, in recent events, the celebrity-status of public figures such as Ellen DeGeneres was the very thing that placed them even farther away from fans during this worldwide pandemic. This was due to the simple fact that broadcasts of their quarantine lives in glittering mansions and swimming pools only serve to highlight the large disparity in lifestyles between celebrities and fans.

Dene and Sabrina recognised this long before lockdown measures all over the world. “The problem with celebrity & fan relationships is that they have traditionally been what we call ‘parasocial'”.

Parasocial — defined as one-sided relationships — where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, awhile the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence.

Both Dene and Sabrina acknowledge that the internet had provided more content and more ways for people to connect with their faves. However, “it was largely in the old broadcast model, where fans were passive consumers of celebrity content.”

“So by providing a way for fans to get an authentic
(filmed in their home, hotel room, or even taxi) & personalised (created specifically for them), we believe that platforms — like ACE — will bring fans closer to their heroes.”

Regardless, the question of whether celebrities would appreciate this novel, virtual meet-and-greet experience remains. “It’s mostly an education challenge”, the founders of ACE share. “Specifically, for them (to learn) why fans would want to book them, to see how they can get it (an ACE video) right.”

If you’re ready to meet your heroes from the comforts of both your homes, try ACE-ing it.

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