By Sunshine Murray – Senior Account Manager
It’s no secret that the landscape of marketing and brand promotion has transformed dramatically in recent years. One of the most interesting developments in this arena is the rise of virtual influencers. A virtual influencer (or CGI influencer) is a computer-generated CGI or animated digital character that exists entirely online.
In this blog, we’ll explore three questions: What is a virtual influencer and why should marketers take notice? What are the pros/cons of virtual influencers from an ad and marketing agency perspective? Are virtual influencers a passing fad or here to stay?
The Emergence of Virtual Influencers
Often, when brands seek to promote their products or services, they rely on real-life celebrities or popular personalities (aka influencers) to endorse them. While this ubiquitous approach has its merits, it often comes with hefty price tags, isn’t always an effective way to reach a brand’s target audience, and may result in a negative backlash if the influencer’s race/gender/politics/etc. don’t align with a customer’s expectation of the particular brand. Enter virtual influencers, computer-generated characters who have been designed to look and behave like real people but exist only in the digital realm.
The results driven by the use of virtual influencers has been impressive! According to a 2022 virtual influencers survey conducted by the Influencer Marketing Factory, 58% of respondents follow at least one virtual influencer and 35% of consumers said they had purchased a product promoted by a virtual influencer.
Virtual influencers initially rose to prominence within the fashion and beauty sectors. These digital personas could effortlessly pull off any look and cater to a wide-ranging audience, making them ideal brand ambassadors. As time passed, their popularity has permeated a variety of industries including technology, food, entertainment, and electronics.
Virtual influencers like Lu Do Magalu (over 6 million Instagram followers) and Lil Miquela (2.7 million Instagram followers) have worked with many fashion brands including Balmain, Balenciaga, and Prada.
The Benefits of Virtual Influencers
Virtual influencers offer several advantages that can’t be overlooked:
- Creative control: Working with virtual influencers gives agencies and brands the ability to maintain control over their projects from conception to completion.
- Consistency: Unlike human influencers, virtual influencers are available 24/7 and can maintain a consistent online presence, ensuring a steady stream of content and engagement with followers.
- Versatility: Virtual influencers can be customized to fit a brand’s image perfectly. Whether it’s their appearance, personality, or tone of voice, they can be tailored to align seamlessly with a brand’s values and target audience.
- Expand audience: One significant advantage of working with virtual influencers is the opportunity to reach a new, younger audience in addition to tapping into an international community.
Challenges and Considerations
While virtual influencers offer tremendous potential, there are some concerns to keep in mind:
- Authenticity: The concept of authenticity in influencer marketing is crucial. Audiences may question the credibility and genuineness of virtual influencers compared to their human counterparts. Maintaining transparency is key.
- Evolving Technology: As technology advances, virtual influencers need to keep up with the times. Outdated or unrealistic avatars could potentially harm a brand’s image.
- Regulatory Issues: Like all things AI, regulations surrounding virtual influencers are still evolving. Brands need to stay informed about changes in influencer marketing guidelines to avoid legal issues.
The Future of Virtual Influencers
Virtual influencers are not just a passing trend but a glimpse into the future of advertising. Their ability to consistently deliver compelling content with unlimited creative potential make them a valuable asset for brands looking to make a significant impact in the digital realm. As AI advances, expect virtual influencers to become even more realistic, interactive, and engaging with highly personalized content.
In a world where technology continues to shape our lives, virtual influencers are proof that innovation and creativity know no bounds. As they say, the future is digital, and virtual influencers are leading the way into this brave new world of advertising.