No Drama, No Scandals: Why Virtual Influencers Will Take Over Our Feeds
STORY: Farhan Shafie
08 January 2021
The January cover of China’s leading online fashion portal and publication, JSTYLE精美Magazine, features the country's number one female rapper, VaVa and Singapore's "top" influencer, Rae.
But at first glance, would you have guessed that one of them is not a real person?
Meet Rae, a hyper-realistic virtual personality and influencer. Created by CGI technology and powered by AI solutions, Rae belongs to a growing trend of social media marketers known as virtual influencers.
In Singapore, Rae is the country’s top virtual influencer, gaining over 1,500 Instagram followers since her debut in October in the same year. Not bad for a non-existent person.
In China, Rae has an impressive reach with over 100,000 followers on her Weibo account (hereisrae), which is seriously unreal. She was also recently featured on the cover of China’s "World Traveller Magazine" while her latest photoshoot with VaVa builds on Rae’s growing list of accomplishments.
So what exactly is the appeal of these virtual influencers? We went down the rabbit hole to find out how they're winning the minds and hearts of people and companies everywhere.
1. Virtual influencers are the perfect company ambassador
Virtual influencers or CGI influencers as they can also be called, are defined as fictional computer generated "people:" who have the realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans.
For companies hoping to connect with consumers who increasingly spend their leisure time online, this begs the question: Why hire a celebrity, a supermodel or even a social media influencer to market your product when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?
Rae marked her fashion debut fronting the latest 2020 campaign for cult label Monsoon Patrol. She has been featured on Team Night Owl Cinematics’ YouTube and Instagram pages, culminating in a fashion showdown with Grace (@gracelsyy) from Night Owl Cinematics.
Rae’s significant social presence in Singapore and China also makes her as an ideal virtual partner for brand collaboration opportunities and marketing partnership in both countries.
2. You can concoct the perfect message with a virtual influencer
Rae is described as a "digital artist with a point of view". A skater with with a passion for street culture, Rae is "expressive, audacious and always game to try new things and push boundaries". With her trademark blue-ash hair, styled in a high ponytail Rae wears her heart on her sleeve, a reflection of her Chinese name, 蕊 (Rui, Chinese for "core"), and you can trust her to share her genuine and unique perspectives on Instagram .
And just like Rae's digitally-generated image, her voice is donated by an actor. The thoughts she chooses to share are written by scriptwriters, and her bio perfectly concocted to suit any messaging. And that's exactly the point.
More brands are queuing up to get involved with this futuristic means of marketing because they can choose the way these virtual influencers look, dress and act as well as plant them onto whatever backdrops they want.
Rae's collaboration with sneaker designer maestro Mark Ong (@mr_sabotage) to release a sold-out SBTGxRae capsule collection is proof of that.
3. Virtual influencers have no drama, no scandals (yet)
Let's face it, human beings are flawed creatures. Celebrities and social media influencers with a huge following might be appealing for brands to leverage on, but they could as easily be one scandal or faux pas (i.e. a gathering without any masks or social distancing) away from being a liability.
While humans are probably still many years away from walking among robots on the street, social media is one place where H2R (Human 2 Robot) interaction is evolving at a rapid pace. Is it any wonder that online personalities like Rae would inevitably be embraced?
Brands don't want no drama, they just need their influencers to help make the moolah.