In the Year of Our Lord 2020, the news cycle has been something like a game of demented Mad Libs, with each day bringing with it an absurdist new twist: if a well-respected CNN legal analyst isn’t getting fired for exposing himself on a Zoom call, then the Trump team is doing press conferences at a landscaping company situated between a crematorium and a sex toy shop. The latest grouping of nouns, verbs, and adjectives: the former star of Mean Girls and Herbie: Fully Loaded went semi-viral for doing TikTok sponsored-content for a video chat startup masquerading as a fart-obsessed Zoomer cult.
Yesterday morning, those scrolling through their TikTok ‘For You’ page, a feed that serves up specialized content tailored to the user’s interests, may have been surprised to see Lindsay Lohan, sitting on an off-white couch and radiating the approximate energy level of a broken stapler, reading off a script: “O famera president, it’s me Lohan. I call upon thy name to ask for forgiveness for being a dirty little stinker,” she says, punctuated by her laughter, and the sound of flatulence. “The fragrance of salvation is in the air. May the eye wink upon you.” The bizarre video is followed by the message, “O holy president savior of all that’s chill may you shrink our stink and absolve our smells,” and the “Church of Famera” logo, an eye embedded inside a nonagon.
THIS AD ON TIKTOK??? JGJF/FK￥￡* pic.twitter.com/rchhwed3Rv
— ??benjamjn (@kylie_gender) November 23, 2020
Commenters were baffled. “PLS WHAT IS THIS,” one person wrote, while another chimed in, “Lindsay, is your rent due?” “I saw this and was so scared and confused I wanted to cry,” another said.
Per Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation for bizarre phenomena is usually the correct one. That dictum also applies to Lohan’s TikTok ad, which was sponsored content for Famera, essentially a Gen Z-branded, “psychedelic” video-chat app that transposes people’s disembodied heads onto little bodies in various locales and allows you to “call your friends and chill in magical spaces” and “twirl through vortexs [sic] of beautiful spaces and people.”
“It’s an app. It’s a realm. We call it Famerica,” CEO Pasquale D’Silva told me as the team took me on a tour of various AR backdrops, including outer space and a Thanksgiving dinner. (As an aside, the COO of Famera happens to be the little brother of one of my best friends in high school; though I was not aware of this affiliation prior to reporting this story out, it was truly an M. Night Shyamalan-level twist.)
When asked for context about the bizarre copy for the ad, a representative for Famera who identified themselves as “Famera President” helpfully provided the following clarification. “The Eye is my, famera president’s, face,” they told Rolling Stone in an email. “My winks are blessings. Do you remember the movie Parent Trap? Lohan used to have a twin. Where is Twinsey Lohan now? Lindsay Lohan could not bear to share the limelight with her twin, and desired to be the Only Lohan, so she ate her. That in turn gave her gas, which then she farted out, making a big stink. For this she had to repent to the one true god, famera president.”
D’Silva and the Famera team were similarly abstruse about Lohan’s level of involvement. When reached for comment, however, Lohan’s publicist confirmed it was the product of Cameo, a platform where celebrities sell custom clips directly to fans (prices tend to vary according to the name recognition level of the celebrity in question; Lohan charges $355 a pop, someone like “pizza reviewer and Barstool sports personality” Uber Deb charges $30). Historically, Cameo has been used for people to buy birthday greetings and shoutouts, but it’s become increasingly common for brands and startups to use Cameo as a way to purchase endorsements from influencers, a feature it started offering last July. “We started to see a bunch of mom-and-pop type companies booking Cameos to promote their car dealership or whatnot, which we thought was great,” COO Arthur Leopold told Vox last summer. “Some talent were willing to do those, and a lot of talent weren’t. We realized that there was an opportunity to create a marketplace that democratizes access to celebrities in such an easy way.”
While this provides brands relatively affordable access to celebrities and influencers that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, the celebrities and influencers themselves have little control over how their likenesses and endorsements are used — which, as the response to the Famera ad demonstrates, could possibly erode their brand — though to be fair, considering Lohan’s last substantive venture was a canceled MTV reality show about her managing a beach club in Mykonos, Greece, perhaps that is moot in this instance.
As cringey as the ad may be — and though Famera’s beta version just launched on Monday and only has a few hundred followers on Twitter — it appears to have been effective at generating interest in the app. “I came from the lindsay add on tik tok and Jesus Christ — there wasn’t any other way y’all could have advertised it??,” someone wrote on a Discord server for the app. Famera’s response provides a fleeting glimpse into the future of direct-to-consumer social marketing: “A Lohan fart is the only way.”