|Computer-generated influencers may be fake as they are not real humans but their influence on social media is not. / Photo credits by Tul Chalothonrangsee via 123rf|
Rather bizarrely, computer-generated influencers are also on the rise. In a world where what the audience likes is fickle, all kinds of trends are welcome. There might be those that need to connect with someone on a personal level, and some who might just need people who speak their language.
Well, language here probably matters less than novelty; welcome to the world of the CG influencer.
Real Influence in a Fake Voice
It sounds harsh but there really is no other accurate way to describe it—CG influencers are fake, but the influence and buzz they are able to build? Not at all.
According to a report by USA Today, a website offering news around the US, this influence could even make the subscribers and supporters of these influencers actually buy stuff from them. In a survey conducted by Mukta Chowdhary called “Can CGI Influencers Have Real Influence?” the answer is surprisingly yes.
“Surveying more than 500 13- to 34-year-olds, Fullscreen sought to learn whether people who followed CGI influencers made purchasing decisions because of them. According to the results, 55 percent of people who followed CGI influencers made a purchase, 55 percent attended an event, 53 percent followed a brand and 52 percent researched a brand product,” USA Today writes.
So, how exactly are people able to relate to something obviously fake? Well, it turns out, they don’t actually realize it.
A study by Fullscreen found that 42 percent of people they asked about influencer following did not realize they were following a CGI influencer until they were told about it. Technology has just reached a point where it is nearly impossible to tell.
Here’s where it gets a little funny: brands are working with these influencers. TubeFilter, an online publication with a focus on the online entertainment industry, explains that the odd appeal of CG influencers like Lil Miquela, for example, lies in the fact that the way the startup company Brud created her is based completely off of consumer behavior data.
This makes her feed on Instagram so… utterly human. Her CG persona too is a run-of-the-mill knockoff; TubeFilter describes her as a model and musician, also two things you’d expect from an influencer on Instagram. To accentuate her persona, she has videos, clips, even ads with Calvin Klein, for whom she endorses products.
If you think that’s crazy, just take a look at her 1.8 million followers and social media performance stats that can easily square up to the biggest influencers in the game.
Why is this so? Back over at USA Today, the support that Lil Miquela gets from, say, the brands that choose her to advertise, is not completely far-fetched if we take into account the risk-averse nature of big brands. Simply, AI-generated, CG influencers are easier to work with than run-by-their-emotions humans. It’s that simple.
“They're completely controlled. They can be programmed to say things and do things in online environments in ways that the brand marketers want them to,” says Northwestern University professor of integrated marketing communications Frank Mulhern.
This gives brands fewer headaches and allows them to be in better control of how they want their brand represented.
In a problem-fraught world, though, no one is safe. Brands may have the luxury of lower risks involved in marketing, but they are still under the scrutiny of the public.
Recently, Calvin Klein’s ad with Lil Miquela and Bella Hadid kissing was lambasted online for queerbaiting. The argument was that one, Calvin Klein was doing the community a disservice by having two people—who are not members of the community—engage in activity that’s pandering to the community itself (i.e. girl on girl kissing); and two, they argue that Calvin Klein could have just as easily amended this mishap by casting a member of the community who is also a model and human.
|CGI influencer Lil Miquela has 1.8 million followers and is making a buzz with her social media performance stats competing against the biggest influencers in real-life. / Photo credits via Los Andes|
According to Media Kix, an influencer marketing agency, the public opinion on these kinds of influencers is a mixed bag. Sure, Lil Miquela has a one million follower count but a peek at the comments offers a view of audiences who are either all for it (probably the 42 percent of people from the Fullscreen study), really do not like it, or those who just came to troll and see what happens.
“The combination of elusiveness and bluntness is a recipe for both confusion and endless entertainment, but also leaves us humans to question what kind of influence virtual influencers have on us,” Mediakix writes.
So what influence is that?
The one thing all these CG influencers have in common is the fact that they are built on the understanding that human connection is what gives influencers the thrust they need to be popular.
All of the CG influencers are, in one way or another, regurgitations of AI-gathered information on what makes an influencer truly relatable. While that is an incredibly eerie reality, it seems with all these brand deals and oblivious supporters, CG influencers are likely to stay.