If you talked to someone maybe ten, or fifteen years ago, the job title of “influencers” would be baffling. Essentially, it is a public figure that promotes or uses services or goods in exchange for money. While the job can lead to other opportunities, it is similar to a celebrity endorsement without the celebrity. It is one of the many developments of the digital age that no one really expected.
What’s even crazier than that is the AI influencer. We’re not talking Max Headroom or the animated band members of the Gorillaz either. We’re talking about virtual influencers that act like real people.
I first came across this phenomenon years ago when I found Lil Miquela (@lilmiquela) on my Instagram explore page. Since there was no precedent, like many people, we were all bothered by her face. The face looked CGI but it looked too real to be really sure; something in the middle of the uncanny valley.
I confirmed that it was indeed not a person, but rather a virtual person. She has her own backstory–she was created by a corporation named Cain Intelligence but was then represented by a tech startup called Brud. The next thing I know is that she is a recording artist with her own music and is signed to Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
I never followed the account but whenever it crossed my path, I would click on it and scroll because everything was so jarring. She posed in pictures with other virtual people, has a non-virtual boyfriend, and had a modeling campaign for Calvin Klein opposite supermodel Bella Hadid.
At this point, I didn’t think anything else would surprise me but more of them started popping up. Maya Gram (@mayaaa.gram), Shudu (@shudu.gram), and Rozy Gram (@rozy.gram) all have their own endorsements, slightly “distinct” personalities, and endeavors. These “people” even have their own fans commenting on their posts.
I can’t really pinpoint what the market of the AI influencer is, but it certainly is fascinating. I know it is always profitable to have some different and unique (especially in the landscape of entirely non-unique actual influencers) but who’s to say that the AI influence market itself gets flooded? Maybe there’s no way to try to make sense of all of this and we’ve finally reached the point where “keeping up with the times” is just too entirely demanding.