Digital Media Concepts/Virtual Influencer

What are Virtual Influencers? edit

Virtual influencers or CGI influencers are computer-generated characters on the internet.[1] They appear on the internet like other real influencers with personalities, realistic features, and dispositions of humans. Their images on the internet are created by CG artists, their voices are dubbed by actors or actresses and the posts people see on social media are written by scriptwriters. [2]Creators (individual or company) play as the managers and also the virtual influencers simultaneously. How a virtual influencer appears depends a lot on the creator's reference, aesthetic, and characteristics.

Virtual influencers’ audiences are mostly women from the age range of 18 years old to 34 years old. And about 49% of virtual influencers have a decreased growth rate in the follower numbers. And since their activity on social media created scriptwriters, actors, actresses, which costs money (and nearly free for real influencers) so viewers might find them not active as real influencers and this can be the reason why followers stop following them on social media.[3]

How did this trend start? edit

The fashion industry was the first field to collaborate with a virtual influencer. In 2018, Balmain hired three virtual influencers Margot, Shudu, and Zhi for their “Army” project”. As it got popular, more virtual influencers have been created and more brands started to join in the trend of partnering with those virtual characters instead of real models. Maya, also a virtual influencer, once be the ambassador of Puma in the Southeast Asian area, and actually, Maya was specially created only for Puma. There are many virtual influencers are created for one specific brand, and become a brand's signature. After the fashion industry was a technology as Samsung, food as KFC, and also The World Health Organization (WHO).[4]

Why do brands choose virtual influencers? edit

The reasons why brands like to work with those virtual influencers are brands can have more control over models, models can be modified into what shape brands need without taking too much time, it definitely costs less than real models and brands have the ability to control their value and messages.[5]

For starters, virtual influencers are not real people; they are always contained within a computer system that brands can access at any time. It will not happen in situations like the shooting begins at 3 p.m., but due to traffic, the models are late. Secondly, virtual influencers are created by computer so they can be changed into any shape to qualify with brands’ requirements, skinner, bigger, or taller, shorter and also clothes can be changed and created so quickly. Thirdly, a real influencer with around a million followers can charge up to $250,00 for a post on their page. And with a virtual influencer with 3 million followers, Lil Miquela, the price per post is $241,000. The difference is $9,000 for a post and this difference can be more or less. But in any case, virtual influencers are always less expensive than real influencers. Last but not least, what the brand's ambassador says can have a significant impact on the brand's reputation. Virtual influencers do not speak or post on social media on their own; scriptwriters are in control of that. So everything is arranged ahead of time, and there will be no situations where the ambassador says or does something incorrectly.

The disadvantages of virtual influencers. edit

Despite the many benefits of this trend, there are some drawbacks. Virtual influencers, as the name implies, are not real, or in other words, humanoid. Viewing virtual influencers can induce a state known as the uncanny valley. And brands are often forced to take the risk of making customers feel uneasy when collaborating with virtual influencers. There are always some particular parts of audiences that are against computer-generated characters.[6]

When creating virtual influencers, skin colors, facial features, and body structures can all be problematic. Because racial and cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic, it may offend the minority while also being detrimental to the majority. For example, Shudu is a black virtual influencer, created by Alek Wek, a white man. After Shudu went famous, Wek was accused of taking advantage of the black women feature.[7]

Since virtual influencers are not real, they only exist on the internet so if brands want to collaborate with them. Brands are required to digitalized their products. This is the huge inconvenience that stops virtual influencers from developing. The technology to make an image look appealing like real products is costing and high-skilled.

Controversy around virtual influencers edit

Virtual influencers are not human so the imputability of commercial communication is a huge concern. When influencers carry out an incorrect action, who is going to be liable for it? Since the brands have the control over and supervise virtual influencers in projects, creators are the one who actually creates those actions. What if virtual influencers are in charge of those actions, since they are not human, then how can they take the legal responsibility from the law?[8]The second question raised is virtual influencers a trend or is it a new area of advertising and commercial? Virtual influencers got famous very quickly and there are many virtual influencers created since then and so many brands have collaborated with virtual influencers. Virtual influencers have both advantages of being physically limitless and disadvantages of maintaining and staying active. But it seems to have peaked and started to go down. The one big lack of virtual influencers is credibility and reputation, which is a huge downside to advertising. Consumers may be interested in virtual influencers at first but over time there is nothing to hold their interest. A real influencer can build reputation and credibility from their experiences, knowledge, fame, and personality. Virtual influencers have none of these things.

Some famous virtual influencers edit

There are about 144 virtual influencers in the world, but only a few of them stand out and really are hired by brands. Here are some of the successful virtual influencers.

External link edit

References edit

  1. "Virtual Influencers: What Are They & How Do They Work?". Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  2. "Even better than the real thing? Meet the virtual influencers taking over your feeds". The Drum. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  3. "The Top Instagram Virtual Influencers in 2020". 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  4. "The evolution of the virtual influencer: no longer just a trend". The Drum. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  5. "Virtual influencers 101: A guide for small and medium business owners". NCR. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  6. "Virtual influencers 101: A guide for small and medium business owners". NCR. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  7. "Virtual influencers 101: A guide for small and medium business owners". NCR. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  8. "Virtual influencers: controversial legal issues". Retrieved 2021-10-14.