A big 2018 marketing prediction was that CGI profiles would surface on social media, and sure enough, they have. We’ve not only seen social media users quickly embrace these constructed (some might say fictional) figures, but we’ve watched in awe as established brands seek out digital relationships with these profiles and share collaborative stories with the world. And this development has come at a good time for major brands.
Brands have enough to consider when making deals with human influencers: vetting them, ceding creative control, and risking blowback every time an influencer’s fingers hit that ‘post’ button. So, while human communication errors continue to cause uproar, some brands are exploring the reality of virtual influencers, who don’t come with a high risk for crisis communications.
Why is this the case? Consider a company in Silicon Valley which introduced a 19-year-old CGI robot to social media, @lilmiquela. She has a clear stance on political issues, lifestyle choices and a desirable demographic.
With a steadily rising follower count (currently 1.5 million), this Gen-Z rising star has no baggage, is not associated with any troubling accounts, and isn’t likely to say something racist or start an Instagram feud. As such, she has proved to be a safe, lucrative bet for brands.
It gets more interesting. Miquela’s recent partnership with Prada showcased not only promotional posts but an Instagram takeover during fashion week. Whether or not these partnerships are being put on the books, we can’t tell, as since Miquela isn’t human, she doesn’t have to adhere to the rules set forth by the FTC … just yet. Though ethical and federal trade concerns remain part of the conversation, we as marketers can see why brands find value in these relationships.
The catch is, we know Miquela’s life is fake, but somehow, it’s safer to engage with her because the story she is telling is based off group cognition. And anyway, this doesn’t seem to be a concern for younger generations on social media. They have lived their entire lives only knowing technology as an integral part of their experiences. As she gains social acceptance growth brands face a litmus test, to gauge how relevant they can remain in new markets – and far they can push the envelope.
Brands are adopting innovative new social and communications strategies that understand not only where consumers spend their time, but how they understand reality. Being smart about these two things allows marketers to deliver the most relatable content to bring established brands to new markets and vice versa.
CGI influencers and personas are vehicles for brands to communicate with their audiences, and for tech companies to showcase innovation and progress. combination of these two forces has raised concern about the creative process. Earlier this year a fashion photographer faced backlash after creating his own CGI model that he declared was a muse for his creative outlet. That same photographer was contracted to work with fashion giant Balmain to produce such models for their latest campaign.
Both examples raise the possibility that brands could develop brand exclusive in-house CGI, that fits the brand image perfectly. This is another way that brands can regain control of their messaging, but could pose a threat to physical models working for digital and print publications. It’s certain that we will see CGI continue to evolve, even if we won’t be seeing a CGI model on the runway anytime soon.