You know it almost seemed like an imaginary world when someone first told me about virtual influencers, but it looks like they’re here. Interestingly enough, they’re also vying for space with real influencers. Who are these virtual influencers, you wonder? Well, a virtual influencer is an AI or CGI-generated influencer who looks kinda real. Their physical and personality traits are similar to a human being, and of course, they’re created by creators.
In Southeast Asia, virtual influencers are literally taking the world by storm. Korea’s first virtual influencer Rozy looks too real to be virtual. In fact, when you open her Instagram profile, you’d wonder if she is an actual human being — so do thousands of her fans who often comment: 'aren’t you real?' on her posts. With over 145K Instagram followers, Rozy’s life is glamourous and you’ll find her globetrotting and collaborating with brands like any content creator would.
And then there’s Rui — another virtual influencer from Korea, who says she chose her face based on people’s influencers. While she is an actual person, her face isn’t; it’s a concoction of various features that people find desirable. Rui goes by the name Ruicovery on YouTube and has about 85K subscribers.
When it comes to brand collaborations, a virtual influencer is as valued as a real influencer.
Are Brands Taking Virtual Influencers Seriously?
Let’s talk about India’s first virtual influencer, Kyra. Kyra may look somewhat unreal but that doesn’t stop brands from collaborating with her. In fact, she is the first virtual influencer to embrace the cover page of Travel+Leisure. Popular Indian brand boAt Lifestyle too collaborated with Kyra just the way it does with Kiara Advani, Masaba Gupta, or Hardik Pandya.
Brands like Nike, Nissin, Puma, Samsung, Calvin & Klein are working with virtual influencers — so is World Health Organisation (WHO), which collaborated with Knox Frost for COVID awareness campaigns. According to an article by CNN, the CEO of Sidus Studio X said, "Many big companies in Korea want to use Rozy as a model. This year, we expect to easily reach over two billion Korean won (about $1.52 million) in profit, just with Rozy.”
While Virtual Humans states that there might be about 200+ virtual influencers, with brands creating their versions of AI-generated influencers, there shall be more in the future. Yup, not just those by creators. Look at Prada for instance — while the brand collaborates with content creators and virtual influencers alike, it has also created an in-house virtual influencer called Candy.
With freckles and open pores, Candy could pass off as a real human, but when you notice her closely, you’ll realise she’s as virtual as she gets. Prada introduced Candy along with its fragrances and describes her as, “As her own reality glitches, she begins to perceive another, expanding her existence through the power of technology. Free of constraints, her curiosity grows, new creative perspectives are opened and with them, an invitation to rethink reality.”
According to Gartner, by 2025, at least 30 per cent of influencer marketing budgets will be allocated to virtual influencers. Well, that’s a great leap.
Are We Ready for Virtual Influencers?
Whether it’s a brand or a creator — whoever is behind a virtual influencer, escape and freedom are the main motives. Thinking like how a normal individual would, virtual influencers too will launch their range of products and NFTs. Many argue that you don’t interact with a human influencer IRL so how is it different when you interact with a virtual human? Not much, is it?
But while carving an alternative reality, we’re also manufacturing..and perhaps even glorifying the idea of perfection. For one thing, I would love to see a virtual influencer grow older just like an actual influencer because we live in times where social media and the internet largely influence our lives. And perfection is perhaps the last thing I’d seek in an influencer. Entertainment and creativity? Sign me up for it.
On that note, tell us do you follow any virtual influencers?