Aussie App Called Out Over Misleading Ads Featuring Jimmy Barnes, Will.I.Am & More

18 January 2016 | 4:07 pm | Staff Writer

The creators of charity celeb-chat program Sociabl claim there was miscommunication with management

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A fledgling Australian-made app designed to link fans in one-on-one video calls with their favourite celebrities is raising eyebrows after several high-profile individuals linked with the program, including Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes and US artist, claimed to have never heard of it, despite being featured prominently in its advertising material.

The flags were initially raised by The Today Show co-host — and Barnesy's son — David Campbell, who himself was featured in ads for Adelaide-based startup Sociabl. The app, launched by 21-year-old entrepreneur Brandon Reynolds, claims to connect everyday users in face-to-face calls with an (affiliated) celebrity of their choice, known as "luminaries", with half the payment fee — in Campbell's case, a price of $500 — going to a charity.

However, in an interview with Reynolds, Campbell was adamant that neither he nor his famous father had any prior knowledge of the app, much less a working relationship with it.

"My name came up on the app, and I was like, 'I’ve never heard of this app'," Campbell said, going on to explain that he consequently called his father to confirm his involvement but "he hadn't heard of it either". 

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"You’ve used a couple of people there as advertising, very public advertising, who didn’t really know anything about it," Campbell said.

Reynolds attempted to deflect the situation by citing a label representative, "Jake", with whom he said he had organised the affiliation.

"To be fair, I hadn't signed on," Campbell pressed, before explaining why selling a product that doesn't exist might not be the smartest of business plans.

"My concern is, if someone calls up … but I don't know anything about it, and I don't know anything about you, and I say, 'Well, I'm not doing it,' then that person's disappointed with your app, the charity's disappointed in not getting the money, and my head's spinning, going, 'What is this, and why am I being publicised for this?'"

Campbell and Barnes are not the only two famous faces to be apparently misleadingly associated with the app, with's US manager, Polo Molina, telling The Today Show he was also unaware of the app, despite Reynolds' claims that he and his client were "really excited to be part of it", and repeated inclusions of the star's name in media reports about the fledgling app.


Sociabl hits The Herald Sun #sociabl #chatwithastar

A photo posted by Sociabl (@sociabl) on

Additionally, local pop star Reece Mastin is also featured on the app's advertising material, despite representatives at his label, Social Family, also denying any involvement and telling subscription outlet The Music Network that they had requested his imagery be removed from the app's promotional content.

"Social Family Records is in no way involved and in light of recent media coverage, we now have no plans to formally present [Sociabl's contract] to any of our artists," co-founder and chief executive Jake Challenor told The Music Network.

However, as of the time of writing, Mastin (as well as Campbell) is still featured on the app's marketing imagery on the Apple App Store.

Further, The Music Network reports that Barnes has since unequivocally denied association with the app, saying that the company has "completely lied about my involvement".

"I think they're just using my name to try to fool people into buying a dodgy product," Barnes told TMN. "It's wrong and I have nothing to do with it. If the people behind this don't stop putting these stories out there, then I'll have to make them stop."

Figures outside the music world such as comedians Frenchy and Alex Williamson have also been caught up in the furore, with both still visible on the app's homepage background image — though not actually on the app itself — despite their management company, More Comedy, also affirming they had not agreed to be involved.

A "trailer" for the app also features likenesses of Michael Jordan and Richard Branson — or who a reasonable person would interpret to be Michael Jordan and Richard Branson — as can be seen below.

However, according to Sociabl, it's all just one big misunderstanding, with the company taking to its social media channels last night to explain the confusion as nothing more than "miscommunication".

"Due to miscommunication among their managers we have removed three of our celebrities from the Sociabl app," their post reads, ostensibly referring to Barnes, Campbell and "But in some more exciting news we are happy to announce our latest addition to the Sociabl  roster! The one… the only… CEO of Sociabl, Brandon Reynolds!"

Despite the claims of "remov[ing]" the celebrities — which came last night — the most recent update (v.1.0.4) to the app actually occurred the day before, on 16 January, for "minor bug fixes". That said, the app indeed does not feature any of the celebrities that have denied involvement, which brings into question whether they were actually included in earlier versions at all, or just the promotional material.

Sociabl's website lists the company as having offices in Adelaide, London and Los Angeles, with the international locations corresponding with entrepreneurial group-work spaces The Hangout and WeWork — neither of which list Sociabl as one of their tenants.

In addition, its Adelaide address — 583 Tapleys Hill Road, Fulham — is apparently occupied by a yoghurt shop.