Avatars, CGI, Fabricated or Fictional, Unreal, Virtual Influencers… Call them whatever you wish, all these names can truly describe these things. Sorry, have I just said “things”… I meant to say “them.”
Despite the facts, they’ve generated quite a lot of inquiring minds lately, but CGI Influencers are not as new of a concept as you might think.
A little bit of history.
In ‘S1m0ne’ Al Pacino plays a director that is losing his relevancy and in a desperate attempt to save his career, he implements a fully computer-generated “persona” to take on the role of an actress that’s dropped out of his film. No spoilers here, but hijinks ensue and based on the concept alone ‘S1m0ne’ is truly worth the watch. Now, this sort of thing today isn’t necessarily groundbreaking but at the time it was truly a sci-fi concept. A fully realized AI that can easily dial-up and expresses human emotions in seconds, with the sole focus to influence the viewers.
Hatsune Miku, developed by Crypton Future Media in Japan, is established solely as software that you could buy and add to music projects. Miku, along with others, were part of a series called Vocaloids (vocal+android). The company quickly recognized that Miku was developing a fan base of her own and eventually, started marketing her as an actual singer! While you may have never heard of her, she has over 100,000 unique songs attributed to her name and regularly tours to sold-out crowds performing as a hologram!
Now let’s get in-depth about CGI Influencers and their impact on the industry.
- What is a CGI Influencer?
- Comparing With Real Influencers
- Meet Some Popular CGI Influencers
- What’s Next With CGI Influencers
- What is a CGI Influencer?
Whenever you think of a CGI Influencer, the first thing that may come to mind is absolute perfection. With absolutely no faults, the stereotypical CGI Influencers are tall, fit, with perfect teeth and perfect smiles. The idea of competing with them is unfathomable! But thankfully, there are still greater needs for ACTUAL influencers.
Let’s look at “THEM” in a different viewpoint, we can easily downplay them as just “a computer-generated illustrations, with a real person/group of people, operate in shadow, making content & designing everything you see in its SM accounts.” Those backend puppeteers are hazy for the public, in order not to hog spotlights from the character itself.
An important note to mention here is that their creators weren’t looking to dupe anyone and were only viewing these influencers as purely as entertainment… Till recently!
Now, businesses and large corporations are looking towards these “people” as big investments intended to push products, use them in advertising, sway the public’s opinion of trendy topics and its working!
Recently, a study by Full Screen found that more than 42% of CGI influencers’ followers think they’re real. While that may not sound too bad, the mind-blowing fact about it is these fake avatars/personas are blurring the lines between reality and fiction. All with a shadow group of people trying to push agendas that are set by the corporation to influence impressionable people (even kids!). By giving them names, ages, cultural backgrounds, other fake friends, religious beliefs and even political orientations it makes you question the morality of these actions. The weirdness doesn’t stop there, they now have verified accounts, and freely talk to their other digital friends using nicknames! For example, Bermuda calls herself “Robot Queen” and Brenn likes to be described as a “Digital Supermodel”
- CGI Influencers Vs Real Influencers!
Being a brand ambassador isn’t easy work, being connected to a successful brand means you need to attract influencers and make significant efforts, constantly. From creating content, filming, engaging with fans, tracking markets and being aware of their message can add up!
All of a sudden, someone with their computer comes out of nowhere showing their “Flawless Influencer” the ideal celebrity!
Let’s get real.
Real influencers (it feels awkward calling them this) anyway, these celebrities are none other than product drivers, created by a successful team of stylists, media strategists and social media managers. You can’t honestly tell me that people like Ariana Grande or Kylie Jenner’s collective 319 million followers were all acquired only by them! Among this commercialization, CGI influencers stand to be a quickly growing industry. Big companies have already started investing their money into creating them. Brud the company that owns Lil Miquela is now worth $125 million. This raises the question, why all this attention surrounding these unreal things?
They offer more control.
It has always been a pain point for advertisers to control influencers’ behaviors, reactions, and engagement. But with a Virtual Influencer, those concerns are completely gone. To get a deeper view of this, check out MediaKix Influencers Lawsuits list.
They cost less.
As I said before, virtual influencers are a production of shadow companies. These operations are considered ideal as they’re relatively low-cost with high-returns. These companies can set their guidelines for businesses from the very beginning, easily attracting more attention from investors.
The public finds them intriguing.
People around the world are very interested in this seemingly new trend. Following and interacting with these CGI influencers for fun and out of curiosity, ultimately fuel the industry.
In the industry of influencer marketing, there is no room for any mistakes. If an influencer misbehaved, mistargeted, mis-… anything! It could potentially destroy all their fandom in a second. This rarely is the issue with CGI influencers as every post and every reaction is calculated and carefully controlled by a group of specialists. According to Shane Barker, many influencer marketing campaigns fall flat solely due to influencer’s mistakes
Meet Some Popular CGI Influencers.
Lil Miquela @lilmiquela
This virtual Instagrammer was electric last year. She’s been deemed the most influential CGI influencer. Boasting 1.7 million Instagram followers, engaging & interacting with her audience via daily updates on her IG story. As well as, one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet in 2018 according to Time. She also claims to be “Miquela, the Change-seeker” while her “real” name is Miquela Sousa.
Miquela is the production of Brud, a group of problem solvers specialized in robotics, AI & business solutions. Most of their work is based on social media networks, they don’t even have an official website. However, their “Miquela,” is now worth more than $6.1 million, on her own.
She’s supposed to be a 19-year-old half-Brazilian, half-Spanish celebrity. Her main job appears to be modeling and it shows!
Copying REAL Influencers?
Even though all CGI influencers have been advertised as unrealistic, imaginary characters, it’s been debated that Lil Miquela, is in fact, just a copy of the real model called Emily Bador.
Emily Bador or @darth_bador is a 22-year-old English Instagrammer, who started modeling in 2014. Emily gained fame on Instagram for her body-positive posts. As her main characteristic being her face freckles.
With their very similar figures, freckles, haircut, lips and overall shape are not enough to convince you, then have a look at the mark at the bottom of Emily’s image. There, you can see that Lil Miquel “liked this image” which means they could supposedly know each other. They even follow each other on IG!
Now if you’re asking yourself “this all seems like a convenient coincidence.” Then tell me, what does a CGI influencer with over 1.7 million followers, have anything to do with a Londoner with 165k followers? 🤔
Knox Frost @knoxfrost
Knox admires privacy, his IG account is private, what’re you waiting for… Send him a request… OR NOT 😉 He’s a 19-year-old living in Atlanta CGI Influencer has a mysterious background – it’s just another smart commercial strategy – as no company has publicly been attached to him.
This is the most obvious, non-human virtual influencer. Noonoouri (even her name is irregular) is a digital figure who’s posing as a 19-year-old model living in Paris. She is a production of Joerg Zuber and an unnamed graphic designer from Munich, Germany. Currently, she’s been working with the biggest fashion & cosmetics brands.
The Robot Queen (her preferred nickname) Lil Miquela’s best friend & Blawko’s ex. She’s another product of Brud. Some people say Bermuda has a lot of “haters” due to her political affiliations. The company built her character to be purposefully problematic, with bad vibes and “pretty-trashy.”
Shudu @shudu. gram
With her perfectly symmetrical features, Shudu succeeded in generating a lot of press around her name in a short period. The main purpose behind her is to be representing the Ndebele people of South Africa.
- Arguments about CGI Influencers.
First up, is tech YouTuber Lewis “Lew” George, the owner of the Unbox Therapy YouTube channel. Lew, uploaded a video to his Later Clips channel, talking about Lil Miquela specifically & CGI influencers.
He described them as no more than “computer-generated illustrations” & “a manufactured conglomerate of some sort of corporate message, having no point of view.” as well as, expressing his dislike towards these Instagrammers behaviors by saying “it’s hard enough with human beings exploiting themselves.” While viewing one of Miquela’s videos, Lew described her to be “very weird.”
Ethan Klein, the co-owner for the popular YouTube channel h3h3Productions. Ethan made a video on his sub-channel H3 Podcast Highlights, showing his disgust with CGI influencers. Ethan even titled his video “CGI Instagram Influencers Are Stealing Our Jobs” (a bit dramatic).
This ultimately poses the question, can CGI Influencers at some point steal jobs? In this video, Ethan’s guest suggests a theory describing the reason behind CGI influencers’ rapid growth saying; “just like in a lot of industries like transportation & manufacturing, AUTOMATION is taking all the jobs.” So, he suggested that automating the influencing industry is the next level of this venture.
So What’s Next?
- CGI Influencers produce REAL results
- Influencers may face severe problems in the future, at the hand of CGI Influencers
- Companies are taking serious steps into developing CGI influencers
- Expect to see this industry become more relevant in the coming years
- CGI influencers may be the new norm in the advertising industry