Metaverse Insider

Virtual Influencers: The Future Faces of Metaverse Advertising

In recent years, the Influencer Marketing industry has undergone a significant transformation, boosted by the incredible rise of virtual influencers and the popularization of the Metaverse. 

As of 2023, the industry is valued at almost 15 billion EUR (around 16.5 billion USD), with projections pointing towards continued growth. 

In this new entry to our blog series, we will delve into the diverse landscape of the influencer industry, exploring the impact Metaverse has had on the emergence of virtual influencers and what they might look like in the future. 

This article is based on numerous studies, our personal experiences with brands and expertise of our team, working in this field for over 5 years now. Each contributing to shedding light on different aspects of this evolving ecosystem.

Before we go on to concrete examples, let’s start with some definitions: The Metaverse is a virtual reality space accessible through PC, mobile, augmented reality tools and blockchain technology, and is envisioned as the next evolution of the internet, what we call Web 3.0. 

It introduces the concept of individual ownership, enabling users to own "parts" of the internet through NFTs.

Originating from science fiction, the Metaverse concept gained traction in the gaming industry, particularly with the release of Second Life in 2003 and the creation of Roblox in 2006. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, accelerating the adoption of virtual events and experiences.

There are thousands of Metaverse platforms, all rich with diverse user-base and use-cases. From Decentraland to Sandbox and soon-to-come Otherside, combined with traditional game-metaverses like Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft offer an array of different worlds, uniting them under the umbrella of this shared space.

Investments from giant corporations into VR technology have long been long, especially with Facebook's acquisition of Oculus in 2014 marking a strategic move into VR technology. The Oculus headsets have seen continuous improvement, with over 10 million units sold in 2022, paving the way for the Metaverse's integration into people’s everyday lives.

Facebook's $2 billion bet on Oculus not paying off: commentary
Mark Zuckerberg wearing Oculus

Meanwhile, Snapchat's integration of AR and VR into its mobile application, through features like Scan and Lens, positions the company as an influencer pioneer. Scan enables real-world analysis through smartphone cameras, while Lens incorporates virtual reality elements into photos and videos.

The limitations of physical interactions during global lockdowns fueled the rise of digital events hosted by influencers. Travis Scott's Fortnite concert and Lil Nas X's Roblox concert garnered millions of participants, showcasing the Metaverse's potential for large-scale engagement.

Luxury brands, including Gucci, are spearheading the digital transition by leveraging the Metaverse as a marketing channel. Gucci's collaboration with Roblox for an online version of its Gucci Garden event resulted in unprecedented user engagement and digital product sales.

As the Metaverse embraces decentralization and individual ownership, influencers are expected to have ownership stakes in the brands they promote. Traditional influencers face competition from virtual influencers, such as Ai-Ailynn, an AI influencer valued at almost $14 billion in the Asian market.

Virtual influencers, designed through computer-generated imagery or animated avatars, are reshaping the fashion industry. The Influencer Marketing Factory's survey indicates that 58% of participants follow at least one virtual influencer, with 35% making purchases based on their recommendations.

Renowned fashion brands like Prada, Dior, and Calvin Klein have collaborated with virtual influencers, such as Lil Miquela, who boasts over 3 million Instagram followers. These collaborations underscore the increasing recognition and influence of virtual influencers in the fashion space.

The aforementioned Lil Miquela is a 19-year-old virtual influencer, which exemplifies the success of virtual influencers. With over 3 million TikTok followers, modeling gigs for top brands, and original music releases, she challenges traditional notions of influencers and blurs the lines between reality and digital presence.

Calvin Klein Apologizes for Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela Ad
Lil Miquela's collaboration with Calvin Klain

Virtual influencers undergo a meticulous creation process, involving determining target audiences, crafting personalities and narratives, designing physical traits through motion capture technology, and finally, launching them on social media. This process allows brands to have full control over the virtual influencer's persona. They wield real influence, as evidenced by statistics indicating widespread followings, particularly among Gen Z. These influencers receive three times more engagement and four times more followers on Instagram compared to their human counterparts.

Of course, there are numerous benefits for brands, such as the use of virtual influencers offering increased reach, lowered brand risk, improved product-market fit, and minimized costs. Brands can customize virtual influencers to align with their values, reaching younger audiences without geographical constraints.

However, they also pose some challenges related to harmful social impacts, cross-cultural dilemmas, legal implications, and extensive team commitment. The uncanny valley phenomenon, where virtual influencers appear too human-like, sparks debates on their authenticity and potential negative audience perceptions.

But as said, the Metaverse is a very dynamic and diverse space, so there are all kinds of ‘natural’ influencers too. In Decentraland, for instance, there are many different venues where you can find these digital citizens welcoming users into the virtual world. From CryptoNovo’s NovoVerse at 23, 69 in Decentraland with his AR filters to MrDhingia’s architectural monuments showcased at his Hyperfy HQ, you can find your beloved influencer and even hang out with them in the Metaverse.

The influencers of tomorrow are not confined to only human entities but extend into the realm of virtual influencers thriving in the Metaverse. The fusion of technology, creative storytelling, and brand strategy propels this evolution, presenting brands with unparalleled opportunities and challenges. 

As you experience this transformative landscape, it becomes essential for marketers and brand managers to fully realize the intricacies of virtual influencers, balancing innovation with ethical considerations. 

The Metaverse, with its decentralized ownership and limitless possibilities, welcomes the influencers of tomorrow, where authenticity and creativity are paramount.

Daddy Phill

November 27, 2023


Other Articles

MetaViu Creates White Labeled Games for Brands in the Metaverse with Stadio Plus

MetaViu has been pioneering Metaverse advertising for years now...

Read more

How Agencies are Scaling Offers with MetaViu’s In-Game Experiences

Marketing and Creative agencies around the world are actively looking to...

Read more