At the first glance, this Instagram page seems common… until you read the bio and realize that this woman does not truly exist. As implied in her bio above, Lil Miquela is a virtual character. Following the ambition to create new storytelling models, Brud – an American startup – has designed Miquela in 2016. She was the first virtual human ever to appear on a social media platform. Communication experts stand behind the scenes of this Instagram account, so as to bring Miquela’s character to life. Through her posts, she succeeds to embody human behaviors and lifestyle.
Over the years, Miquela has gathered more than 3-million followers on Instagram. In parallel, several similar Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) influencers have entered the game, such as Imma, Bermuda or Shudu Gram. Although they are made of pixels, these virtual characters have succeeded to convince brands to collaborate with them. In 2016, Louis Vuitton was the first brand to jump on this trend, by collaborating with the CGI character Lighting. Hence, virtual influencers have gradually become attractive towards brands. And probably more than human influencers! Other luxury brands – such as Dior, Prada, Balmain – have followed the trend.
How can this success be explained?
According to a 2021 HypeAuditor research, virtual influencers’ engagement rates are three times higher compared to their human counterparts. Therefore, brands can display an avant-gardist image to their customers and beyond, proving they can innovate and rely on the newest technology. On top of this, CGI characters are not limited to the reality frontiers so they can easily adapt when it comes to promoting a product. As virtual influencers depend on human control, it is simpler to shape their content and to meet brands’ requirements.
CGI influencers are expected to be the first Metaverse actors. Further, the next step would be to rely on artificial intelligence for them to become independent. Hence, virtual influencers could control their own content on social networks. If this comes true, how will it be possible to differentiate CGI characters from human beings? Hence why the legal framework and KYC are to play a leading role in this process.