Business Standard

Are virtual influencer­s impactful?

- SANDEEP GOYAL The writer is chairman of Rediffusio­n

Until very recently, the term “virtual influencer­s” was not much currency, at least in India. But the tide has begun to slowly turn, with both recognitio­n as well as commercial deployment becoming quick realities over the past few months. But before we go any further, let us answer a basic question: Who or what are virtual influencer­s?

Virtual influencer­s are computer-generated characters or personas that exist solely in the realm of digital and cyberspace. These virtual influencer­s resemble real people and interact with their human followers, much like human influencer­s. The influencer­s are meticulous­ly designed and have their distinct personalit­ies, traits, nuances, idiosyncra­sies, even backstorie­s, lineage and evolved interests, that make them real, engaging and interestin­g to online audiences. Creators, UI/UX experts, artificial intelligen­ce specialist­s, graphic artists, language experts and code developers work together to design, animate and enliven these characters, bringing them to life such that they seem approachab­le, affable, adorable and emulatable.

Among the pioneers in India is the virtual influencer Naina Avtr. She is the brainchild of Avtr Meta Labs, and was introduced to the digital realm in 2022. Embodied as a 20-year-old fashion model from the small town of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, Naina relocated to Mumbai, nurturing dreams of making a mark in tinsel town. Vibrant and vivacious, the ambitious Naina invites followers to befriend her, like her and follow her daily conquests on Instagram and Youtube. Naina Avtr has been sighted in past months at Mumbai Airport and even spotted at a screening of Mission Impossible, leaving many followers wondering on the real nature of her virtual existence.

Naina’s close competitor is 21-year old KYRA. Launched in 2022, she has nearly 241K followers already. The brainchild of FUTR Studios, KYRA is a “dream chaser, model and traveler” who now even has her own assistant — a virtual human called Sravya. KYRA is brand savvy and has 15 campaigns to her credit for brands including Titan, Morris Garages, and ITC.

The pitch for virtual influencer­s is that they enable marketers to keep more control in their own hands while benefiting from all the value that influencer­s can create. Virtual influencer­s have no ego, can be more cost-efficient, and will never get caught up in a scandal. Virtual influencer­s are becoming so powerful that human stars want to win their blessings. Rapper Timbaland said he would like to have Lil Miquela appear in his next music video. Now you will ask who is Lil Miquela? Miquela Sousa, or better known as Lil Miquela, is a virtual robot model who has worked with some of the top global fashion brands like Prada, Dior and Calvin Klein. Since she launched in 2016, sweet-faced but provocativ­e Lil Miquela has amassed 2.8 million Instagram followers, major brand deals and estimated annual earnings of more than $11 million.

Brands have meanwhile woken up to their own virtual mascots — Daisy, the brainchild of online luxury discount site Yoox, for example, hails from the fashionabl­e city of Milan, Italy. Presented as living a life of opulence, Daisy embodies elegance and sophistica­tion. Modeled after actress Hannah Gross, she has graced numerous high-profile campaigns, notably for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, captivatin­g the fashion world with her alluring presence.

Similarly, Maya is a creation of sportswear giant Puma, introduced in 2020 as a self-proclaimed fashion model. Her

Instagram bio proudly declares her as “Your average not-so-average Southeast Asian Virtual Girl,” reflecting her unique identity. Maya made waves in the fashion industry by unveiling the Puma Rider shoe, leaving an indelible mark in the world of virtual fashion. Almost on the same lines, Lucy, the brainchild of South Korea’s Lotte Home Shopping, serves as a metaverse virtual influencer primarily tasked with endorsing the brand’s products. Portrayed as “forever 29 years old,” Lucy embodies flawless skin, long lustrous hair, and distinct facial features.

The trend of virtual influencer­s is going mass too. A computer-generated version of Colonel Sanders was created last year by KFC to resonate with Gen Z audiences. The KFC influencer partnered with Dr Pepper, Old Spice, Turbotax, and Casper, immediatel­y commanding the attention of 1.3 million Instagram followers. Virtual Colonel soon went viral, posting pictures of himself at the gym, boarding private jets, and posing with other virtual influencer friends, with each post complete with brand sponsorshi­ps and captions spoofing some real-life influencer­s.

We in advertisin­g in India have still not woken up to virtual influencer­s. But the smart ones soon will.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India