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Are AI Influencers the next big thing?

By July 25, 2018Opinion

Since the rise of influencers and the boom of them in 2017, brands are building a strong relationship with this new way of marketing. The list of players that have been added to the influencer market has been growing with some surprising and even questionable elements, such as kidfluencers (children with social networks that are signed to promote products or services) and pet influencers (famous pets that do the same). When it comes to pet influencers, brands often value them in a different way as it is much more difficult for animals to ‘get out of character.’ For example, it is unlikely that the pet influencer will become viral for saying something he/she should not, or for doing something that damages the brand, therefore an attractive option for advertisers.

But the most incredible ones are artificial intelligence influencers. Like some kind of episode from Black Mirror, artificial-intelligence-powered influencers are taking over. The most famous case is Lil Miquela. Lil Miquela is an influencer on Instagram that has appeared in her photos with clothes and accessories from top-tier brands, such as Proenza Schouler, Coach or Balenciaga. She has recommended beauty products and has supported social causes. Lil Miquela has more than a million followers and is a well established influencer. Interestingly, it wasn’t until last April, through her Instagram, that she made it clear that she did not really exist and that she was a robot.

Marketing with influencers works because what you are selling is the idea of something real, of authenticity and expert voices that have tried the products and services. Artificial Intelligence takes this one step further and offers brands a safe bet – one which is similar to the reason pet influencers seem valuable.

The virtual influencers are ‘clean’ players. Nobody would discover that they have a criminal past and generate a scandal and they won’t use a language that makes some followers of the brand feel uncomfortable.

To have control of the message and control how it is served, with these influencers born via artificial intelligence, is easier than ever.

In addition, the brands themselves can end up creating their own custom influencers and positioning them in networks and controlling what they do and how they do it.

Consumer Confusion

Of course, this emerging market creates a new problem and could open the door to a need for more regulation and a few ethical issues. On one hand, there is the question of how a virtual being using artificial intelligence can recommend products and services and can give opinions about them that are credible and valuable. On the other hand, consumers are not always aware that what they are being told is not recommended by a model that lives happily in California, but a virtual being that only exists thanks to artificial intelligence.

In some industries, such as fashion and beauty, these type of influencers are infiltrating more and more and are making the borders increasingly unclear. When a controversial C.G.I model named Shudu Gram promoted a brand of cosmetics, a very important part of the followers of the brand did not know that she was not real, with one commenter writing “I feel like you should tell me when the ‘people’ modelling your clothes aren’t actually people.” This commenter knew something that many of Shudu Gram’s thousands of followers hadn’t realised: that she was not a human model but a computer generated character.

All ethical issues aside, it will be interesting to see if AI influencers take off, what do you think?