What Are Robot Influencers?


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Will The Next Addison Rae Be A Robot?

Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, ordinary people have been able to rise to instant fame. With this fame, they have been building their own community online, earning the prestigious title of an influencer. However, have you ever heard of robot influencers? If not, well, let me introduce you to CGI influencers, colloquially referred to as "robot," or "virtual" influencers. 

They aren't your typical personalities like Addison Rae or Kylie Jenner. CGI influencers are scrupulously designed by a creator to emulate real human social media stars. In this blog, Hollywood Branded dives deep into analyzing CGI influencers’ future within the fashion and entertainment industry. 

What Are Robot Influencers? - Christine-2

So, Who Are They?

Robot or virtual influencers are meticulously designed by a computer and, even though they embody ideal beauty standards in society today, they still radiate an authentic air. The influencers are often seen partnering with high-end brands like Dior and Timberland on their Instagram accounts. They actually look so similar to humans that the casual observer has difficulties differentiating CGI influencers from real ones. In fact, Fenty Beauty reposted a virtual influencer's picture without being aware that it wasn’t a real person.

According to Fullscreen, an entertainment company, 42% of Millennials and Gen Z cannot discern between a CGI and a real influencer. The purpose that drives the existence of these virtual influencers is profit. Social media analytics propose that robot influencers have triple the amount of user engagement than their human counterparts, proving this to be a lucrative business. Moreover, Fullscreen states that 55% of people who follow virtual influencers bought the featured product, and 53% followed the brand recommended

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Meet Some Of The Trendiest Robot Influencers Today

Shudu, the first digital supermodel, skyrocketed in popularity since her debut. She has modeled alongside Gigi Hadid and has appeared on Vogue. Her alluring gaze and glowing skin make her an unforgettable presence online. She has amassed over 200k followers on her Instagram (@shudu.gram). She modeled for brands like Ferragamo and recently partnered with Samsung to promote the Galaxy Z Flip. Cameron-James Wilson is the man behind Shudu. Every crease on her skin to every strand of her hair is designed by him. He is a photographer who produced a handful of other robot influencers, and who created The Diigitals, a modeling agency composed of only virtual models.

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Miquela, with 2.9 million followers on her Instagram account (@lilmiquela) is the talk of the town. She possesses the highly coveted emblem of beauty, freckles, and she is notable for her quirky Instagram captions, impeccable street-style fashion, and adorable space buns. She is featured in household name magazines such as Nylon and Euphoria. Furthermore, in 2018, Miquela was named one of the 25 most influential people by Time magazine. Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou created Miquela, and she debuted on Instagram in 2016.


Miquela is no stranger to many A-list celebrities. She posted a photo with Saweetie and even Paris Hilton commented on her post. When she is not busy rehearsing her latest song release or grabbing brunch at the quaint cafe in the bustling city, L.A., she serves as an advocate for the black community.

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While the creator of Shudu emphasizes transparency and reveals himself as the engineer behind her, Brud, the company that created Miquela, treasures the mystery. The company contrives content that feeds the public into a fantasy about her. On Instagram, Miquela wrote on a post that she "feel[s] so human" and "fall[s] in love," which projects the idea onto her followers that she is a real person who is capable of catching feelings.  

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Robot Influencers' Beauty Isn't Their Only Appeal To Brands

As recent as last year, we've seen many influencers fall victim to the notorious "cancel culture" that is rampant on social media. The premise behind "cancel culture" is the mob mentality to ostracize a content creator due to inappropriate or problematic behavior they take (or have taken part) part in. No real human influencer has immunity from "cancel culture," because humans make mistakes. When an influencer is "canceled," not only does it taint their image but it also hurts the brands that they represent or partner with. Essentially, virtual influencers are employed for the same reason why some brands use animals to represent them: Tony the Tiger from Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Martin the GEICO Gecko themselves cannot tarnish the image of a company.

Brands can control virtual influencers, but that cannot be done with human influencers who have their own unique personality and agenda that they want to follow; CGI influencers are moldable. Maintaining popularity is difficult because trends and fads dissipate so quickly. Although it's unclear how long a virtual influencer can stay relevant, they can alter their appearance and features to fit the hottest trends almost immediately, giving them a leg up. 

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It Seems Like Not Everyone Is A Fan Of CGI Influencers 

Even with these advantages, criticism still tails the novel stars. People argue that there is a consequential disconnect between the creator and the virtual influencer. For example, the public expressed outrage to Cameron James-Wilson when they found out that Shudu was not a real person and that he, a white man, was profiting off of a story that did not belong to him: the struggles of black women in the modeling industry.

In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, James-Wilson defends himself, stating that "[Shudu] represents [dark skin models] and is inspired by them." To Wilson, Shudu was a way to continue the conversation about diversity on social media and in the modeling industry. People say that Shudu is robbing modeling opportunities that should be reserved for real-life black women. In response, James-Wilson states Shudu does not replace real-life models but rather is the client for brands that want to explore more of the digital world. 



Is Everyone Replaceable? 

It doesn't seem that virtual influencers will completely replace and eliminate the need for real influencers because of the hefty price tag attached to designing them. Even creators like Cameron-James Wilson say that their influencers are not made to replace humans, but rather they are a method of showcasing their artwork. It takes a lot of time to design the virtual influencer and create an image that will be posted; real-life influencers can snap a photo and post it onto their social media in a matter of minutes. And besides, would virtual influencers quench Gen Z's growing thirst for media that imparts a sense of human connection and authenticity? Real-life influencers' imperfect lives may better captivate a Gen Z audience, which will always demand a market for human influencers. 



Shudu And Miquela Are Just The Beginning

Shudu and Miquela seem to be the start of a growing industry. Despite all this uncertainty, there is one thing that is certain. The success of CGI influencers sparked the exploration of digital models. In the next couple of years, you might just walk into your nearest Nordstrom and see holographic models strutting down the aisles.

Interested in learning more about influencers? Say less! Check out some of our other blogs to learn more about the trendiest influencers today!

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