The current worldwide outbreak has pushed companies towards using automatically immune virtual influencers to promote their products on platforms like Instagram. Could influencers like Aww’s Imma be here to stay for the long run?
When Riot Games released an Instagram account for LoL Seraphine, it turned out to be a marked change in how the game was marketed. Normally, Riot would tease future champions through some sort of in-game easter egg or a cinematic trailer.
Seraphine was instantly different. A series of cryptic Instagram posts culminated in the collaboration of the character with virtual pop group K/DA. She was released as a playable character as part of patch 10.22, in the days leading up to the 2020 Worlds finals, with the song MORE released by K/DA the same day.
View this post on Instagram
Seraphine’s release seems to be part of a general trend towards creating virtual characters, celebrities, and influencers who aren’t restricted by the bounds of reality.
All the fuss about virtual Instagram influencer Imma
Given the current situation, some brands have turned to promoting their products through virtual influencers like Imma. Originally an art project, Imma’s popularity has snowballed into an Instagram page with over 300k followers, and sponsored posts from companies as large as Porsche.
View this post on Instagram
「Porsche Taycan × Miyashita Park – Sustainable Project 」開催中とのことで、渋谷のMiyashita Parkにお邪魔しましたっ🧠 あたしが今年3月に一緒に日本各地を旅した、ポルシェのフル電動スポーツカー「タイカン」是非皆んなにも近くで見て欲しいなっ😆 Went to see the Porsche Taycan, an all-electric car which I traveled with in March🧠 Please check out “Porsche Taycan × Miyashita Park – Sustainable Project” in Shibuya, Tokyo😆 #あたしCGらしい #サステナブルスポーツカー #タイカン #Porsche
“Virtual influencers, while fake, have real business potential,” he said.
“They are cheaper to work with than humans in the long term, are 100% controllable, can appear in many places at once, and, most importantly, they never age or die.”
While this makes sense business-wise, it’s important to consider the ethical side of recruiting robots to humans. You only have to look at the Black Mirror episode ‘Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too’, where Miley Cyrus’ character gets replaced by a digital version of herself when she rebels against her bosses, for a warning about the unethical side of replacing human celebrities with digital versions.
Regardless, creating fictional influencers has worked well for companies like art toys producer Superplastic. They created Instagram accounts for its characters Janky and Guggimon to market their products and give the characters more personality.
Creating virtual influencers looks like a marketing strategy that will keep getting bigger, especially as worldwide restrictions on travel remain in place over winter.