Is This for Real!? Virtual Influencers: Who Are They and Why Have They Become Mainstream?

In the digital world, it’s not surprising that even influencers have been digitalised. But what is a virtual influencer? Virtual influencers (AI influencers) use computer graphics (CGI) to create characters, which simply means that these influencers do not exist on Earth.

To understand what a virtual influencer is, we have to look at the two words:

Virtual =  something that doesn’t exist in the physical world

Influencer = someone who has an impact on others

We are all familiar with the word “influencer” which has been popular for the last decade. Beauty bloggers, YouTubers, or anyone else who has become famous online are influencers. Virtual influencers, on the other hand, are created by people. Although AI influencers have been around for about 4-5 years, they have just started to become popular in Thailand.

Why Does Virtual Influencer Marketing Appeal to Brands?

Now that you have the answer to the question: “what is a virtual influencer?” you may wonder why it appeals to brands? The answer is simple. Just go back to the principles of marketing: “Business exists wherever people are.” Virtual influencers are man-made, but they’re not only beautiful images to be posted on social media. They have a persona including a nationality, gender, age, job, tastes, etc., as if that character does exist as a real person.

So, how do virtual influencers work? Once those virtual characters have their social media accounts, their unique lifestyles attract real people like us. The more followers they gain, the more business opportunities brands can see from virtual influencer marketing. Nowadays, many AI influencers make tremendous amounts of money.

Advantages and Drawbacks of Virtual Influencers

Although virtual influencers are an emerging marketing trend, it’s likely they will soon receive more attention and followers. Brands that were never interested in AI influencers before will inevitably seek opportunities to use them as a platform to promote their products. But, of course, everything has its pros and cons.

The important advantage of virtual influencers is that they don’t really exist. Therefore, virtual influencers inherently have advantages that humans will never have: no chance of getting sick, and being forever young and immortal (unless their creators give up on working on them). More importantly, they have no history of misconduct that netizens can use against them, as so often happens with human influencers when their past is dug up to hurt or end their career. That won’t happen to virtual influencers as their creators can specify how they behave.

On the other hand, the drawback of virtual influencers is that they are not appropriate for every product. Mostly it’s fashion brands that have turned their attention to virtual influencers and worked with them. Imagine if a skincare brand hired an AI influencer to review their products. Do you think consumers would be convinced to buy knowing that the magic of CGI can smooth and whiten virtual influencers’ faces to any extent they want?

How to Create Your Own Virtual Influencer 

You can create your own virtual influencer if you have the right skills in computer graphics and 3D modelling and rendering technology. Many virtual influencers portray their lifestyles as if they are real people. Therefore, creating a virtual influencer may require some additional skills and knowledge of beauty, fashion, lifestyle, marketing strategies, and more. If you’ve got the right skills, you’re ready to create your own virtual influencer. These days, most virtual influencer creators are technology companies or startups.


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  1. Lil Miquela (created by Brud, a company specialising in robotics and AI)

Lil Miquela is a 19-year-old Brazilian-American girl living in Los Angeles, USA. She is the pioneer of virtual influencers, and she was created and debuted on Instagram back in 2016. Now she has gained over 3 million followers! As mentioned before, virtual influencers are not just beautiful faces; Lil Miquela also has a very clear political stand. She even participates in social and political movements like the #BlackLivesMatter campaign speaking out against police brutality and systematic racism.

Lil Miquela has a portfolio of successful works, but what really caused a buzz was her singing! She has released titles including, Not Mine, Speak Up, Hard Feeling, and Automatic. Moreover, she has worked with major brands like Givenchy, Off-White, Prada, and Calvin Klein, working with world-famous supermodel Bella Hadid. This proves the power of AI influencers and their appeal to leading brands.


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  1. Shudu (created by Cameron-James Wilson, a fashion photographer and visual artist)

Shudu is the world’s first South African digital supermodel. She has collaborated with prestigious fashion brands, including Salvatore Ferragamo, Balmain, Christian Louboutin, and other leading brands like Hyundai and Samsung. She has also featured in VOGUE Australia, GLAMOUR, WWD, and Cosmopolitan. Now Shudu has more than 200k followers on Instagram.

  1. Rozy (created by Sidus Studio X)

At 22 years old, Rozy is South Korea’s first virtual influencer. She was created in August 2020 to represent Asian beauty. Since her debut, Rozy has gained more than 100k Instagram followers and earned a considerable income for the company by collaborating with famous brands. Rozy has worked with Calvin Klein, Hera (a luxury Korean beauty brand), and Shinhan Life, a newly established life insurance company in South Korea that featured Rozy to help target Millenials and Gen Z customers.


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Thai Virtual Influencers

Ailynn is a 21-year-old Thai AI influencer. She was the first virtual influencer generated especially for business purposes by SIA Bangkok, Thailand’s first company to specialise in virtual influencer marketing. Ailynn is an extrovert who possesses a bold, realistic and mysterious character, brimming with the self-confidence to try new things.


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She gained attention, having been featured in the campaign #AIS5GxAilynn by AIS, a large telecommunications company. This signalled the start of a new dimension of advertising for Thailand. She has since gained more than 13.9k Instagram followers, and this figure looks set to grow.

Technology never stops evolving, so marketers need to stay up to date. Every change has the potential to either positively or negatively impact your brand and your business. Virtual influencers are another trend that shouldn’t be underestimated. The Metaverse is a hot topic these days, and if it continues to grow, virtual influencers will be more influential than ever before. Soon, the whole world may have transformed in a way we could never have imagined.