It’s getting harder and harder to find the perfect birthday gift for friends and family after the world has spent several years stress shopping online while trapped at home. But the perfect gift is now just a few clicks away because American Greetings has finally introduced “Weird Al” Yankovic as an option to its video SmashUp video cards, personalised for over 1,000 different names.
Personalised videos from celebrities aren’t a new idea, but you no longer need to have a friend of your cousin’s wife’s stylist who went to high school with a given celeb to make it happen. Sites like Cameo feature a long list of famous people — from actors to singers to athletes — all eager to make a few extra bucks by recording a quick video and a personalised message. You just need to set your expectations low when it comes to the production values and the enthusiasm in the custom video you’re paying for.
It’s a different story with American Greetings’ SmashUp video cards. The selection of celebrities might be smaller (“Weird Al” joins other musicians like Alicia Keys, Donnie Osmond, and Dolly Parton) but the production values are through the roof, and “Weird Al” is joined by a barbershop quartet and a gospel choir while he performs Happy Birthday as well as another birthday song he wrote from scratch.
What’s most impressive is that customising the video is as easy as making selections from two pull-down menus on the American Greetings website and app. You can choose from a handful of generic titles for the recipient like Aunt, Mum, or Sister, or stick with their actual name assuming it’s included in the extensive list of over 1,000 real names (sorry, there’s still no Bort) which are paired with a list of options for specifying (or remaining vague about) the person’s age.
The recipient’s name and age are incorporated into the performance. And while the immediate assumption is that American Greetings has gone the deep fakes route to create thousands of versions of this video, the quality and the clever editing instead point to “Weird Al” having spent a very long day in the recording booth and on set to cover every last option offered.
The only downside to gifting someone a personalised “Weird Al” video for their birthday is that American Greetings doesn’t sell them as one-offs. Instead, it’s leveraging the novelty of the idea to force users to sign up for an American Greetings account and subscription, which appears to start at $US5 ($7)/month, but it gets cheaper if you’re willing to get locked in with a one or two-year subscription.