Cast of Characters:
The Situation. -Mike Sorrentino - Jersey Shore
Andy Dick. - upcoming Elmore Leonard's Freaky Deaky
Snooki. - Nicole Polizzi - Jersey Shore
Patti Stanger - Millionaire Matchmaker
Robin Lynch - Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Natalie Nunn - Bad Girls Club / Love Games
Taylor Armstrong - Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Kiowa Gordon - Twilight
Lamont Hollywood - ABC's Coast To Coast
Vienna Girardi - ABC's The Bachelor
George Noory - ABC's Coast To Coast
Nic Richie - the Dirty.com
Jim Plunkett - Legendary Oakland Raiders player
Developed by Voxbox Inc
The epiphany moment for Personixx came three years ago when VoxBox Inc CEO Gary Kawesch came up with an idea to add celebrity vocal talents to a new satelite navigation system. After a bit of digging around and researching Gary found out that there were a couple of companies already providing a service but they weren't exactly making a big splash.
"I didn't want to be the third figure in that space so I retreated and, in a couple of weeks, came up with the notion of a more generalized celebrity audio application" Kawesch told me. "Everyone has a smart phone these days but not everyone has a tone phone or a GPS. So I axed the whole idea of the navigation voices thing and focused more on the person to person greeting."
The new idea was person to person messaging on audio devices with ring back tones and voice mails using celebrity talent. It then just depended on the talent he could convince to join him in the adventure.
"Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous" and "Across The Pond" host Robin Lynch was one of the first to sign up. Then legendary Oakland Raiders star Jim Plunkett was signed up along with Taylor Armstrong from "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" whose husband Russell had just recently committed suicide. Andy Dick was convinced to jump on board but the addition of Jersey Shore stars Nicole 'Snookie' Polizzi and Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino were the celebs that really kicked Personixx Greetings onwards and upwards.
"Snookie is doing a lot of things to change her whole image. She has a boyfriend and she's pregnant now. She's lost a lot of weight, too, which is great for her." said Kawesch. "She's has certainly parlayed her 15 minutes of fame into way more than that and turned it into a career. A lot of reality stars are not able to do that so I give her tremendous credit. It's not easy to get 4 million Twitter followers and have one of the highest rating shows on MTV and it's kudos to her and the rest of the cast."
Kawesch claims that tens of thousands of people have downloaded the app already and that's not just down to the pulling power of the Jersey Shore stars. Personixx Greetings is very different and very rich in content. Users can get completely customized messages where their own voices can be seamlessly intercut with the celebrity vocal talents providing words and phrases making the message almost conversational. Unlike similar sites, the totally original content turns your message into something very fluent and natural sounding as if the pair of you were calling together from the same room.
I asked Gary whether the message content would echo the explicit language of the TV series.
"There is a rating provision on the app where you can tell the app if you are over or under 18 and it will lock some of the racier content. Andy Dick, for example, has more of that kind of content than Taylor Armstrong so it depends on which celebrity you choose. There are sex and alcohol references and, with Andy, some drug references. I think he's been in rehab about eight times so you can't help but talk about that. I give the talent control over the content so we push the limits with some people and try and get some cutting edge and racy content. Sometimes the celebs strike some of the content and sometimes it goes through."
Hopefully there won't be any racy language from Robin Lynch though Kadesch did tell me of the rather conservative Lynch objecting to the use of the phrase "as cute as a bum nugget' in one recording session. When he asked what the phrase meant he was told it was a rather distasteful British slang term and was kinda like a dingleberry. He didn't know what that meant either but went along with the latter because it sounded slightly less distasteful. For any of you wondering what they really mean I'll get you to check them up in the Urban Dictionary.
So who would you like to sign on next? I suggested that after Barack Obama's performance at the White House correspondents' dinner he would be a fine pick up if things go wrong in November but Kadesch leaned more towards Snoop Dogg to wow his predominantly 15-25 target group.
"Snoop Dogg would be great. Anyone with a huge following, a tremendous degree of celebrity, an interesting and recognizable voice. Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga. They are very powerful. They are influencers. That's exactly the type of celebrity we are looking at."
Kawesch then disclosed a very interesting direction for Personixx.
"We are looking right now at a licensing deal...I can't say who but let me just say that they a very popular set of animated characters. We might even white label it for a stand alone app if all goes well. It's important to me to procure talent that has some legs and some longevity. The animated series is certainly along those lines."
Personixx is pulling out all the stops on marketing with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest offshoots predominant in advertising and promotion of the product. How essential are social networks to the advertising of a new product?
"Very essential" said Kadesch. "We have done traditional broadcast media like Extra and Access Hollywood. We've done the entertainment tabloids. Mario Lopez interviewed Snooki a few months back with about 2 million viewers but that paled in comparison with Snooki tweeting about it to her 4 million followers."
And how about an overseas version? Not only does the technology cross borders but can also be developed into different languages. "So if we want to get the top Chinese national talent and celebrities and record it in Chinese, we can."
On a final note, Kadesch is donating proceeds from the download of the app to secure the future schooling of Armstrong's daughter Kennedy.
"Taylor's husband Russell tragically committed suicide last year and they have a young daugher Kennedy who is now six. We launched Personixx very shortly after that tragic incident so I stepped up and made that decision to donate a portion of the downloads to the charity to securing Kennedy's schooling."
Personixx Greetings is a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that is available from the App Store. It is the first in a series of products that VoxBox are developing and they will soon be launching a native Facebook application which will really make the company go global. You will then be able to send people messages as audio messages, eliminating the US phone barrier. They are launching a ring tone app very shortly which will also transcend international boundaries and will enable the user to put a customized ring tone on their phone. When your friend calls it will say "Hey Pete, this is your buddy Gary calling. Pick up the phone" and it will be delivered in the celebrity voice of your choice.