The thought of having a brand ambassador that will never age, never make any bad decisions, always stay on script, and never create any drama, can seem like a utopia for companies and brands.

Image from Instagram @lilmiquela

Investing a lot of money in a celebrity or influencer that does or says something inappropriate will reflect on the brand and cause a lot of bad will. The industry of digital avatars, virtual beings, and virtual celebrities has been around for a while. It is now becoming more attractive for brands as technology is constantly evolving.

What is a virtual celebrity/influencer?

Unlike a real human being, a virtual celebrity is created using 3D graphics or other types of CGI and special effects software. They are computer-generated avatars with a creator or team of creators behind them. The team creates a fictional character with a personality to make it seem like the virtual celebrity has a real life. The daily life and adventures of these fictional characters are posted on social media.

One of many examples is the virtual influencer Miquela, who has over 3 million followers on Instagram:

Why are brands becoming more interested in virtual celebrities?

The most obvious reason for using virtual celebrities as brand ambassadors or marketing is that you have full control over the process. Also, a virtual celebrity will never make mistakes, so there will be less liability. However, the team behind the virtual celebrity can still make mistakes or bad judgment calls. But overall, a virtual celebrity will not be out in the real-life and do things on their own, like a human would be doing.

Another pro is that virtual celebrities do not age or change appearance unless you want them to. You will always know what you get. You also have more control over anything computer-generated, so the result will always be exactly as the original vision for the marketing.

Will virtual celebrities replace humans as brand ambassadors?

Are there no downsides to virtual influencers? One could argue it is difficult to feel the same connection to something that you know is not real. Our need for human connection is hard to replace, and this will probably not happen until we reach a point where you can’t tell the difference. The same argument can be made for whether human actors will at some point be replaced in movies by pure CGI? Then again, many popular movies that made the audience connect to the characters were animated. It is most likely possible to connect to a non-living character, but to what extent?

Image from Instagram @kfc

To look at virtual celebrities as something that could replace human influencers or celebrities is probably approaching it with the wrong mindset. Virtual celebrity is a niche on its own. It will most likely continue to be just another form of entertainment, branding, and advertising.

The development of virtual celebrities is an exciting field to follow and is still in its cradle. As all media become more connected, the traditional borders between different media forms will vanish. This development opens up exciting opportunities to integrate virtual celebrities in many creative ways.