By Gisele Soo
Should we be concerned about the rise of virtual influencers? Or is this just another way of improving living standards?
First of all, what is a virtual influencer?
Virtual influencers are fabricated digital characters. Believe it or not, these computer-generated models are the latest trend in the marketing world whose popularity is also on the rise. Some may view it as deceptive and offensive but some think otherwise. They are quite realistic; consumers can hardly tell the difference. The digital characters range from a hyper-realistic depiction to a cartoonish look.
Compared to actual social influencers, virtual influencers have more engagements with their audience. Research has shown that the majority of them are females aged 18 to 24. They are addicted to the craze.
Virtual influencers are unbiased, unpaid and easier to monitor. But “Remember, there are always two sides to every story.” Virtual influencers are widely used to market products and no doubt, they also work with many prominent brands like Balmain, Prada, Samsung and Coach. One of the leading digital characters, Lil Miquela, forever 19 years old with 1.7 million followers on Instagram, is a YouTuber, model, and musician. She was created by LA-based company Brud in 2016.
Have we thought about how these fictional characters alter our perception? How does this new creation harm society?
“They are nothing new in my opinion. We have had similar trends before like Gorillaz and Miku Hatsune,” said a social media enthusiast, Nabila Nadia. “I discovered Lil Miquela about a year ago and she really captured my interest,” she added.
The purpose of social platforms is almost forgotten as people have drifted away due to the lack of interactive capabilities. There is a great chance of losing the human connection. Unlike real influencers, virtual influencers are fabrications of design. They exhibit emotion but that can easily backfire if the audience does not trust the feelings behind it.
The question here is, how to measure the authenticity of the products being hyped when the products are promoted by people who do not even exist?
“I am intrigued as I am a huge fan of Sims so honestly it’s like the game meeting real life, especially when I see these ‘influencers’ promote brands like any other ambassadors. It again depends on the product they are promoting, if it’s skincare or make-up then definitely it’s a no for me,” Nabila said.
The use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) may be advantageous but they are not risk-free. Their flawlessness creates unrealistic expectations which cause insecurities among girls.
Meanwhile, some of the pluses would be the minimum risk of Public Relations liability that could affect the audience’s perception. It is understood that these characters make little to no mistakes vis-a-vis real people.
In addition, they can work around-the-clock! They are not human, they do not need a break.