In-Scope: Fake Influencers: The non-human kind

Lauren Gibb is a Social Executive for OMD Create Sydney, providing innovative social and content solutions to a wide range of client challenges.

While still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things, Influencer marketing has seen its fair share of attention recently. To some, it’s still seen as a relatively uncharted territory full of bandwagoners and fake followers. To everyone else, it’s a trusted medium that can provide great results if the right investment of time, research and rigour are put into it.

One aspect of Influencer marketing that makes it stand out from any other medium is its context. Rather than existing as a static ad that simply tells you something, it is uniquely backed by someone who can talk to a prospective audience in a way that – by virtue of being human – can help add another level of trust and authenticity to your message.

So, what happens when that influencer isn’t actually human?

Introducing Miquela, a 19-year-old from southern California. She has worked for brands like Prada, Coach and Pat McGrath, and is a staunch advocate for LGBTI+ rights and #BlackLivesMatter. At a quick glance, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish her from a regular influencer. However, once you dig into her feed, it becomes apparent that there’s something strangely unnerving about her. She’s not real.

Miquela is part of a larger trend that has been brewing across social media for the last few years. CGI Influencers, including CGI models like Shudu Gram, have collectively amassed millions of followers, with other smaller CGI influencers slowly cropping up across the market in varying degrees of hyper-realism. With this trend showing no intention of slowing down, it’s interesting to think: Could this kind of influencer become the norm in five years?

When it comes to working with influencers, these CGI versions are obviously run by a human, created by a human, and are probably loosely based off real human influencers. But there-in lies the problem; how is an audience supposed to trust, and listen to the opinion of a person who doesn’t possess an opinion of their own? When transparency and authenticity is absent, how can they effectively deliver an authentic message?

When you look through the comment section on some of these influencers posts, some interesting sentiments come up. Maybe not so interesting, but somewhat expected.

While it could be an intriguing exercise to align with innovative technology and an experimental way to frame a message, if the audience is as confused around authenticity as this one, it might not be the best idea.

As you would with any other influencer, doing your due diligence in terms of assessing brand fit, brand safety, tone of voice and authenticity is key. Whether you can accurately apply your measures of fit to a CGI influencer, I’m unsure. That’s a hurdle we can get to five years from now. All we can do for now is wait until these influencers become so real that there’s no discernible difference between them and a human (or not – Westworld is concerning) or continue to utilise our human friends to drive authentic, branded messages at scale.

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