CGI influencer marketing: 4 questions for the avatar stars

CGI Influencers

When is an influencer not an influencer, as we know them? How about when the influencer isn’t a person, and nobody knows who’s behind the animated character?

The world of influencer marketing has always been a murky one. Celebrities promoting products they don’t believe in. Bloggers on the blag. Uncertaintysurrounding what has been paid for and what is genuine opinion. Those waters have been muddied further with the arrival of names like Bermuda and Blawko. Non-human, computer generated influencers sound like the last series of Black Mirror. They are very much a reality now, though. 

What follows is everything you need to know about this rather curious trend. 

Who are the CGI influencers? 

They are digital avatars, computer generated but controlled, somewhere, by real people. Examples include the tattooed and be-chained @lil_wavi, bandana-wearing Blawko and his pal, biggest of them all, Miquela.

Let’s focus down on the latter so your brain doesn’t melt with overload. She currently claims 1.6million Instagram followers and, despite only existing digitally and therefore being unable to eat, claims to be a ‘taco truck expert’. 

Her rise to prominence can be traced back to a Calvin Klein ad where she kisses real life influencer Bella Hadid. Like Bella, she’s influential in fashion, lifestyle and hanging out with stars. She’s also now the Contributing Beauty Editor at Dazed Digital. 

Bermuda is another prominent name in this bizarre area of modern life. She’s actually another friend of Miquela, and both are the brainchild of Brud. The firm specialises in robotics, AI and apps for media businesses. It’s also backed by some of the biggest venture capitalists out there, but let’s not go into that. Hopefully you get the point. 

 

What are the CGI influencers good for? 

At the moment they seem content to parade about their profiles doing stuff us normals can’t, or wouldn’t, from appearing in pop videos to eating endless piles of Big Macs. Fundamentally, the hype that was built around these characters has served one purpose. When Brud finally ‘outed’ itself, the company’s prowess in AI immediately became unarguable. 

 

What are the problems with CGI influencers?

Apart from potentially signalling the End Days, if you’ve read our guide to influencer marketing the answer should be obvious. As Mashable puts it… “you can be sure that someone is making money off of these ‘people’.”

Therein lies the major problem. The same article refers to ‘hazy’ financial threads, something that is likely to make people— and brands— feel slightly on edge. We’re already viewing real life influencers with scepticism and distrust due to their lack of transparency and potential to be inauthentic, as per our CEO Rick Guttridge’s op-ed for Prolific North. So what might the view be of animated celebrities, and their unknown puppet masters? 

 

So, are standards slipping? 

Really it depends on where your standards sit. At the moment, both the Competitions and Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Agency are attempting to rein-in wayward influencers to clean up the sector. So far the real impact has largely been people committing to improving, rather than tangible improvements. 

Many perceive these attempts to control human influencers as rather limp and ineffective. So what can we expect these bodies to do when the influencers are computer generated. AI cannot be fined or jailed, and the avatars only need their reputation for as long as they are active.

 

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