The Virtual Influencer: Digital Advertising’s Newest Trend for 2023

Have you ever dreamed about having a celebrity or your favourite influencer endorse your brand, but always felt it was out of reach? Digital advertising might just have the answer: Virtual Influencers.

What are Virtual Influencers?

“By definition, virtual influencers…are fictional computer generated ‘people’ who have the realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans.” This is to “allow followers to connect with them and create a bond of trust that has the power to influence their purchasing decisions”.

Virtual influencers have creators behind them and are often managed by digital marketing or PR agencies. They decide how they act, what they wear and what they get up to. And this could be a multitude of options, as the creator can design a backdrop to set any scene for their virtual influencer.

Why is this a good option for brands?

A big benefit of using virtual influencers “is the possibility for brands to maintain absolute control over their projects from conception to completion.” Humans aren’t always reliable. They could have clashes in their schedules or make mistakes in shoots which are costly to fix. With a virtual influencer, any mistake can be easily changed, and conflicts shouldn’t occur.

They also have no geographical limitations and can be used anytime and anywhere. They can continuously produce content, which can help to grow a campaign or following quickly.

They are also a good option to target a younger audience, as they seem to identify more with digital avatars and creations; with the virtual world becoming more prevalent in their lives.

What are the drawbacks?

One of the biggest drawbacks to using a virtual influencer is their lack of authenticity. They cannot actually use a product and are completely scripted in what they do or say. However, a human influencer, who has built an authentic community of fans, can promote a product which consumers have more faith in.  

A virtual influencer can also promote unrealistic body and life expectations, especially for the younger generation. They are usually created to reflect an idea of ‘perfection’ with the way their bodies and look are represented. Brands need to be careful not to promote this toxic standard and ensure their collaborations aren’t having a negative impact on consumers.

Top Virtual Influencers

  • Lu do Magalu– 6.1 M followers on Instagram – “the virtual human with the most visibility in the world.”
  • Lil Miquela– 2.9 M followers on Instagram – a virtual robot model who has worked with brands such as Prada, Calvin Klein and Dior.
  • Guggimon– 1.5 M followers on Instagram – described as a “fashion horror artist and mixtape producer”.
  • Imma– 407k followers on Instagram – Japan’s first virtual model.

With the popularity of virtual worlds and the metaverse increasing, virtual influencer marketing is set to rise as brands explore the possibilities of using these digital platforms and creations. However, brands need to make sure they do this authentically and still build a community of trust with their consumers.

Sources

https://influencermatchmaker.co.uk/news/virtual-influencers-what-are-they-how-do-they-work

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2022/10/18/the-rise-of-virtual-influencers-and-what-it-means-for-brands/?sh=2c0d17226b56

https://www.smartosc.com/insights/the-pros-and-cons-of-virtual-influencers