Virtual Figures With Real Influence — Porsche & Virtual Influencers

If a person’s life interests us, do they have to be real? More and more users are saying no. This is a good sign for virtual profiles, which, for a long time, was a phenomenon limited to Asia. Which computer-generated personalities are most popular? How can CGIs (Computer Generated Imagery) become friends? And why did Porsche Ventures invest in the Asian start-up iMaker?

Imma.gram is a CGI character, who has a fashion line and drives a Taycan

According to her Instagram profile, Lil Miquela is spending a lot of time with her friends. The 19-year-old half-Brazilian, with the real name Miquela Sousa, poses with them on the beach in Los Angeles. On social media, she posts content of herself doing yoga, partying at festivals, protesting deportation. She also shares photos from her childhood when she first experienced snow with her more than three million followers. Rather successful but, in terms of content, a rather unremarkable Instagram presence. But Miquela’s profile is special, and not just because of her freckles and conventional beauty or because she has released five songs and has 100,000 Spotify followers; Miquela is — although barely noticeable at first glance — not human. She is a digital avatar. She is one of the most successful virtual influencers worldwide. A creation of the Californian start-up Brud, Miquela has been around since 2016. During this time, she has not only been a musician but also a brand ambassador for various fashion and lifestyle brands. She has even shared a kiss with supermodel Bella Hadid for Calvin Klein.

Colourful, lively, and inspiring: Lil Miquela’s Instagram presence

Virtual influencers like Miquela are — if they are successful and generate reach — a million-dollar business. They are versatile. Whether on the moon, under water, or in Bangalore, they show neither attitude nor lack of sleep and have no reputation problem due to their CV. That is what makes Miquela and her two friends Bermuda and Blakwo so valuable. The three are all Brud products, whose market value was estimated at USD 144 million last year. By the end of 2021, they had added NFTs to their portfolio of digital personalities.

No fee, full control

The advertising fees of the virtual ambassadors, who themselves — another advantage of programmed idols — do not charge a cent, are correspondingly high. Under these circumstances, more and more brands are following the trend and developing their own virtual opinion leaders. The advantage: They can adapt the virtual profiles of their brand lifestyle to their target group, thus tailoring a perfect personality completely under the brand’s control. Because followers see themselves in their virtual idols, bonds, feelings, and trust are developed particularly quickly. At the same time, these virtual friends are always available, have an open ear, and, at least partially, follow community advice — be it voting on the next garment or choosing the next sports car.

Imma.gram from Japan has a fashion line and drives a Taycan

Imma.gram is perfectly tailored to Japanese culture

In a time when “real” influencer profiles seem arbitrary in their advertising, virtual influencers, in contrast, seem to stand for consistency and authenticity. This media agency OMD Germany also came to this conclusion when it examined the perception of virtual influencers among German consumers. The result: 39 per cent of those surveyed were open to virtual influencers. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the phenomenon, which came from Asia, has grown even stronger, being fuelled by technological developments, such as AI, AR, and VR.

Virtual enrichment also for Porsche drivers

Porsche is following this trend in several ways. Firstly, Porsche Ventures is investing in the Asian company iMaker, the leading provider of virtual influencers and digital ecosystems in China. The goal is to gain enrichment from new digital application scenarios in this region. The two companies have been working together since 2020 and are planning to build a new digital ecosystem that will expand and improve the digital customer experience within Porsche vehicles. To achieve this, new digital functions and technologies for in-vehicle applications are being developed. A heavy focus will be placed on communication and interaction with younger generations.

For the same reason, in locations such as Japan, Porsche also relies on collaborations with CGI characters. One example is Imma.gram, a pink-haired Japanese avatar with around 355,000 subscribers, who is perfectly tailored to Japanese culture. Imma.gram even sells a specially developed fashion line and drives a Taycan. Further influencers are being planned, for example for the Chinese market. Outside the premium segment, many brands are also developing their own ambassadors or starting collaborations with well-known drawing-board personalities.

Here is a summary of the three most famous CGIs:

1. Alex Hunter, a 19-year-old fictional character from the EA Sports FIFA game series. On top of being featured as a model in various Adidas campaigns, the avatar has an elaborate life story that draws on real-life elements and is continuously being developed through appropriate storytelling.

2. Noonoouri, an avatar developed in Germany that has gained 384,000 Instagram followers in three years. A special feature of this fashion and cosmetics-savvy creation, which made its first live TV appearance last autumn, is its anime-influenced appearance, which sets it apart from many other human-like virtual influencers. Her doll-like appearance does not detract from her popularity. Noonoouri has collaborations with Kim Kardashian and Dior, among others.

Ayayi — the first “meta-human” fictional character, developed in China in May 2021. Her first post was viewed almost three million times.

3. Ayayi, an avatar that only appeared on the Chinese market in May 2021 and whose first post was viewed almost three million times. The AI creation from iMaker and partners is considered the first “meta-human”, hyper-human fictional character. The advanced technology used to create Ayayi allows for a far more adaptable skin texture to various lighting and shadow conditions. This way, the boundaries between fiction and reality disappear completely.

About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we are developing new digital products and services — always with our customers in focus. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, emerging technologies, and the people that drive our digital journey. If you want to know more, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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