Long before Instagram – or the internet for that matter – advertisers knew that if you had a following, then you had a market to sell to.
Over the past few years its become obvious that ‘influencer marketing’ has morphed from a niche technique used by particular brands into one of the most popular forms of online advertising, with companies spending more than ever in 2019. As content consumption – particularly on instagram – continues to speed up, and sponsored content is a more common sight than original material, the idea of spending thousands of dollars for a model to wear you’re shirt in a photo no longer seems like a profitable investment.
Following a post by an Instagram model boasting over 2.6 million followers who claimed she couldn’t even sell 36 shirts to her own audience – along with mixed reports that audiences are now desensitised to branded content – it appears that this form of advertising may be a bubble about to pop. Now, on top of this, the people behind these accounts are beginning to be replaced.
Virtual influencers – or CGI influencers – are the answer to real people. While they are currently designed, posed and edited by humans, they will soon be spliced with artificial intelligence to create better content with less effort.
Lil Miquela – the name given to one of the earliest and most popular computer generated influencers – has been at the forefront of a larger movement aimed at gathering audiences to convert into customers of branded content.
Looking at the situation from an outsides perspective, the lack of human interaction and personality makes the position of ‘influencer’ easy to fill. “There’s a lot that isn’t real on Instagram, and the way you’re interacting with Kim Kardashian is no different to the way you’d interact with Lil Miquela,” Sophie Hackford, co founder of AI company 1715 Labs, told Standard.
Since its creation the account has been associated with brands such as Supreme, several major events and the 3D model of Miquela has even had the opportunity to conduct interviews which were posted online.
With over 1.6 million followers, Lil Miquela would be considered a successful page, but the problem looming over many Instagram creators isn’t a lack of followers, but a following who don’t care. While the computer generated creators continue to grow on Instagram, generating a platform for advertisers, their effectiveness – as with real influencer accounts – will come down to the specificity of their audience.
This is where artificial intelligence will prove beneficial. Edward Saachi – the co founder of Fable Studios – believes that such AI should be able to ‘tell stories’, creating a virtual personality that an audience can love. The splicing of these two aspects will not only reduce the human effort required for producing content, but allow for accounts to tap into niche audiences, helping advertisers put their products in front of particular audiences and give results.