Human or Robot? Brands Are Buying Into CGI Influencers. Should You?
By Isabeau Touchard
Virtual or Computer Generated influencers (CGI) can be particularly appealing to companies and brands, according to Influential’s CEO Ryan Detert. It can be less risky than partnering with a human because there is greater control over the image. For many companies, a virtual influencer can make it easier to build an online following.
The use of CGI’s is not only on the rise, but it’s also big business. CBS This Morning recently reported that computer-generated social media influencers will become a $2 billion industry by 2020. Miquela Sousa, also known as Lil Miquela, has about 1.4 million followers on Instagram and there is no doubt that she is well on her way to $2 billion. With her human looking features and upscale sponsors such as Prada, it’s almost easy to forget she’s a CGI.
Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, thinks that companies and brands should disclose upfront as to whether their spokesperson is human or a CGI. “It’s not obvious [she’s a CGI], and it’s not obvious on the post level,” said Grygiel, calling this concept “deeply problematic.” “When I was growing up, at least we knew Barbie was a doll,” she said. “For over two years now, there could be people, teenagers especially, who thought [Miquela] maybe was a person,” she said. “We need the brands to disclose. We also need these companies to help so they’re not facilitating and participating in this mass deception.”
Well-known brands such as Balmain and Rihanna’s Fenty have dabbled in the art of CGI’s, yet have also faced some backlash from their consumers. In this day and age, photo sharing platforms such as Instagram and others have helped brands soar by giving them a visual platform to not only market their products but also to engage one-on-one with their customers. While some question using CGI’s over real-life models, there are also benefits to the art, and in this digital world, there may be no stopping it.