That of the so-called influencer marketing, that is of the promoting something through a social media personality which is able to push people to buy and influence their spending decisions, is a market that is both the present and the future of advertising.
The present, because we are already seeing its effects in the real world today. An example above all is that of Uffizi Gallerieswhich in 2021 passed the Colosseum for the first time and became the most visited museum in Italy and the fifth in the world: “Since we landed on TikTok (also involving Chiara Ferragnied) we have seen double the admissions of under 25s ”, they explained last March.
The future, because if already this year 75% of American brands will invest money in this business (among other things with a crescendo over 2020) and total spending in the sector could reach 16 billion dollars, by 2028 the turnover could grow up to 85 billion.
What these estimates don’t say (the last quoted figure comes from a search for EMarketer the Economist also spoke about) is that soon influencers may no longer be what we are used to. Not only that, at least. Not only more or less famous people able to earn thousands of euros per post (here some examples) and to make them earn the companies they work for, but also not people. Celebrities who don’t exist in the real world, but who have concrete consequences in the real world. They are the virtual influencers, and they were created just for that.
Inside the Stardust House, the house where new influencers grow up
by Emanuele Capone
The birth of virtual influencers
In 2003, Magazine Luiza, one of the best-known electronics stores in Brazil, created Lu, a mascot that began appearing in the company’s stores. A few years later, in 2009, Lu leaves the physical dimension to enter the digital one: first a channel on YouTube, then a profile on Instagram and finally a dedicated space on TikTok.
At the moment, Lu di Magalu (this is the acronym of the company) has over 32 million followers on all platforms. In other words, he is the most followed non-human influencer in the world. Yes, because to be an influencer you don’t need to be in flesh and blood. Just have something to say, a face and the ability and the ability to create interesting content.
What are virtual influencers
The virtual influencer market is a constantly growing market, destined to reach 800 billion dollars by 2024. Second Virtual Humans, the site founded by Cristopher Travers precisely to bring order to this world, a virtual influencer is “a digital character created with computer graphics software and endowed with a personality and a first-person vision of the world and made accessible on multimedia platforms for reasons of influence”.
In the world there are many: in Brazil, for example, in addition to the aforementioned Lu, there are CB of Casas Bahiaa virtual guy with more than 5 million followers on Facebook, ed Any Malu, youtuber with over 3 thousand subscribers. Among the most famous and followed in the world there is of course Lil Miquela, the first virtual influencerwith over 6 million followers across Instagram and TikTok.
But there are not only human beings. There is room for even more singular characters, such as Nobody Sausage, a ballerina sausage Portuguese-born with 16 million followers on TikTok, or Good Advice Cupcake, a virtual cupcake landed on Instagram to give good advice to over 2.5 million followers.
The trend has also arrived in our country: in Italy, the best known virtual influencer is Zairacreated by Buzzoole, which has more than 90,000 followers on Instagram.
Virtual influencers: China and VTubers
A particularly interesting market for what concerns virtual influencers is Asia, in particular between China, Japan and South Korea. In Seoul, that of virtual influencers is now a fashionled by characters like Rozy, who has 130,000 followers, and Lucy, a project by the Lotte Home Shopping brand with 78,000 followers.
The real capital of the world of virtual influencers is though Beijing, where the market is already reaching important figures: iiMedia talks about a turnover of 16 billion dollars in China alone. On Weibo, Ling, a virtual influencer with over 130,000 followers, already sponsors of brands such as Tesla and Nayuki, one of the most important Bubble Tea manufacturers in the country.
And in China, the world of virtual influencers is also pushing one step closer: there are already a series of profiles that are even dedicated to live events, interacting in real time with users and followers. Virtual Humans defines them as VTubers, virtual influencers who send clips of their life live. According to a Rest of World investigation, behind these virtual profiles there are real actors, who lend voice and movements to their pixel counterparts. How lo youtuber Vox Akumawhich has over 1 million followers thanks to live content in which it talks about the most disparate topics, from favorite movies to video games.
The sense of virtual influencers
After this overview, one might wonder why the creation of a virtual influencer, who is not in the flesh. In that sense, there are a couple of fundamental considerations for interpreting the phenomenon. The first concerns the overturning of a classic paradigm: generally, the influencer accumulates a following and, only at a later time, is recruited by a brand for sponsorships and promotions. In the case of virtual ones, the company controls the entire process: from creating a personality to managing the daily relationship with followers.
Finally, there are important data: according to research by HypeAuditor, virtual influencers get an average engagement on Instagram 3 times higher than that of their real-life counterparts. “If we look at their modes of expression on Meta’s platforms – Becky Owen, head of the company’s Creator Marketing Innovation and Solutions, told Virtual Humans in Europe – we see that they are unique in the way they connect to the public. They combine the story and fantasy of fiction with the engagement we usually see generated by human influencers. “