Instagram Influencers of the Future: Digitally-Created Models
Instagram superstars like Kylie Jenner are having their social media empire threatened – by computer-animated virtual influencers. The CGI characters, who are kitted out in digital replicas of real clothes manufactured by some of the world’s biggest fashion brands, are becoming a growing online phenomenon. The influencers are portrayed in real-life settings and are used to advertise new products and lines – earning their creator’s thousands of pounds with every post.
Their presence is relatively unknown outside the so-called ‘Gen Z’ cohort of those under the age of 25, but they are growing so rapidly, they are likely to soon be competing with real-life celebrity influencers, industry analysts told the Lakkars. One of the characters, described as the world’s first digital supermodel, is Shudu, whose perfectly symmetrical features have been used to show off fashion items designed by Balmain and Christian Louboutin as well as a Samsung phone. She boasts more than 200,000 Instagram followers, while Imma, a virtual character that describes her as being interested in Japanese culture, film and art, has more than 320,000.
Last year, social media users went wild as KFC unveiled a hunky virtual influencer as their new Colonel Sanders. His Instagram bio states that he is ‘chasing the dream’ and various posts on the chicken page show him living the life. The Kentucky Fried Daddy even has his own girlfriend, who is a computer-generated model named Dagny.
Since then, the number of such characters making a splash online has doubled to 125. Christopher Travers, the founder of Virtual Humans, which documents the new industry, said: ‘I predict that within three years over one thousand virtual influencers will be active on social media. ‘The introduction of virtual influencers is a grandiose form of saying what everyone is already thinking: humans are incredibly fake online. Virtual influencers are the next, most logical step.’
Former fashion photographer James-Cameron Wilson co-founded the world’s first ‘all-digital modelling agency’, The Digitals. He said the creation of Shudu, who boasts more than 200,000 Instagram followers, earns his company a similar amount to that seen with real-life celebrities. Typically, stars can rake in between £1,000 and £10,000 per sponsored post, with brands keen to utilise their vast platform and reach millions of potential customers.
Jenner, one of the most popular influencers on the planet, is thought to be able to earn as much as $1.2 million (£912,000) for a single post. Matt Klein of Sparks & Honey, a cultural consultancy, added: ‘Brands are inherently attracted to the novel. If the end goal is to differentiate and come off appealing, and there’s this new unique and fresh way of doing that, then we’re talking flies to a light.’