First came socialites, then came influencers. Today, the digital age has virtual influencers on the rise.
The appeal of influencer marketing has grown significantly in 2020 and 2021. It is not uncommon for influencers to make from $75 up to $3000 per post on social media, depending on how many followers they have. With follower counts that go up to millions, the draw of influencer marketing works similarly to word-of-mouth advertising, capable of being delivered on social media to millions of followers at once. These relatable personalities convey authenticity and dilute corporate hard-sell efforts, making them a go-to when it comes to marketing.
What makes an influencer?
With the impact of the pandemic and the development of technology, we have seen a different kind of influencer take over our social media platforms – virtual influencers. Virtual influencers are hyper-realistic 3D avatars created using CGI and AI technology, built for the sole purpose of advertising and marketing. These virtual avatars have been carefully manicured and curated by media companies to embody the appearance and traits users may observe in popular human influencers. They possess all the zest of an influencer without the drawbacks of human fallibility as they are artificial entities that are not susceptible to aging, do not experience burnout, and are able to work around the clock to deliver client needs. To add to the benefits of hiring them, they can be cropped, edited, and manipulated to any desired outcome, depending on the marketing campaign they were hired for.
Virtual influencers seem to have just as much appeal as human influencers, with far more flexibility and adaptability than their human counterparts. With the lessened risk of committing online faux pas (e.g. when fashion blogger Arielle Charnas took a trip to the Hamptons amidst the height of the Covid-19 pandemic), virtual influencers are oftentimes the ideal hire for corporate clients. One of the world’s most famous virtual influencers, lil Miquela, has a follower count of 3.1 million and has been the face of campaigns for brands like Calvin Klein. Miquela reportedly makes close to $8,500 per sponsored post.
From hype to NFTs and the Metaverse
As the line between the virtual and physical becomes increasingly blurred, virtual influencers stand to become real revenue generators in the years to come. Rae, a virtual influencer created in Singapore is a prime example of how companies are capitalizing on virtual appeal for real-world benefits. With a growing follower count of 14,000 on Instagram, Rae released three animated 1/1 NFT artworks for sale on the Mintable marketplace on 12 July 2021. The artworks went for 0.155 ETH each and created an opportunity for fans to get into the world of Rae. With the sale of every artwork came an mp.4 video file of the NFT that was bought, as well as a personalized ‘thank you’ from Rae herself.
The expanding space of the Metaverse also spells new and exciting opportunities for the makers of 3D avatars and personas, with virtual influencers being but just one iteration of that development. Appearances and events held by virtual avatars in online metaverse games have drawn millions to their servers, like the “astronomical” in-game concert of Travis Scott’s ‘Astroworld’. Not limited by the physics of the real world, the online concert featured a replica of Travis Scott rendered in 3D performing awe-inspiring and gravity-defying stunts to the backdrop of laser lights and explosions. Ariana Grande’s follow-up Fortnite appearance in the game’s Rift Tour Series also hit engagement of record-high numbers, seeing a total of 27 million global unique players across five airings.
Into the next realm
The Metaverse and the rise of virtual influencers and avatars allude to the success of online appearances as a safe and engaging alternative to IRL events, with equal potential for generating buzz and excitement for fans. The integration of the real into the virtual enables the rise of virtual avatars to be taken into feasible and profitable realms, with marketing opportunities stretching across more than a single avenue. In-game appearances and the development of the Metaverse only serve to extend our consciousness beyond one plane and to welcome virtual influencers into our world as one of the same as all our other loveable online personas.
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