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How AI Influencers Are Reshaping the $250 Billion Creator Economy.

Goldman Sachs reports that in 2023, the creator economy was valued at approximately $250 billion, and it is projected that brands will invest around $7 billion in influencer marketing by 2024. This presents an intriguing question: How much of the creator economy will shift towards AI influencers? These ultra-realistic virtual entities are being developed as an alternative to human influencers, potentially circumventing the exorbitant fees demanded by them.

As we reflect on the past year, it has become evident that AI has significantly shaped our news and social media landscapes, especially throughout 2022 and 2023. A prevalent concern during this period centered on AI’s integration into the workplace and its potential impact on job security. From the perspective of a former advertising executive, the advent of AI poses intriguing challenges for the industry. Advanced platforms, such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, Pictory, and Runway have showcased their remarkable capabilities, encompassing the production of both short- and long-form copy, as well as the creation of realistic images and videos. These tasks, which have traditionally been the purview of creative and content marketing teams and could take hours or even days, are now being accomplished in a matter of seconds.

“Through the power of these platforms, and to the degree that it’s becoming harder to tell what is AI-generated and what is not, it appears that traditional (i.e., human) influencers also have reason to be concerned”

Through the power of these platforms, and to the degree that it’s becoming harder to tell what is AI-generated and what is not, it appears that traditional (i.e., human) influencers also have reason to be concerned: cue the emergence of AI-created virtual influencers. This development marks a significant shift in the influencer landscape, raising questions about the future dynamics between human creativity and AI-generated content.

Lil Miquela

Introducing Lil Miquela (pronounced “mih-KAY-lah”), a virtual teenager characterized by a Princess Leia-inspired hairstyle, freckles and a West Coast skater aesthetic who has over 2.6 million Instagram followers, and in 2018 was part of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet. She can be seen here endorsing products such as the new BMW iX2. According to her Instagram bio, Lil Miquela is portrayed as a 19-year-old robot residing in Los Angeles, and was designed and is operated by Los Angeles-based startup Brud.

Back in 2020, Brud signed exclusive representation for Miquela from Creative Artists Agency (CAA). As reported here, “Miquela, aka “Lil Miquela,” launched on Instagram in April 2016 without explanation—and today she has more than 2.6 million followers, plus almost 550,000 on TikTok, which positions her as a “Gen Z tastemaker.” Brud has inked brand partnerships for Miquela with several companies, including Samsung, Prada, Calvin Klein and YouTube. Her success is documented here that hundreds of thousands of dollars are being commanded in order to work with Miquela.

CAA said it will work with Miquela in all areas, including TV, film and brand strategy, and commercial endorsements, raising the prospect of a movie or show featuring the character.

“Lil Miquela,” launched on Instagram in April 2016 without explanation—and today she has more than 2.6 million followers, plus almost 550,000 on TikTok, which positions her as a “Gen Z tastemaker.”

“Miquela has cultivated a passionate fandom and now finds herself in the unique position of both reflecting and influencing culture. There are unprecedented opportunities for high-fidelity virtual characters to push the bounds of what we’ve seen in any content and advertising to date. We look forward to developing that opportunity with CAA.”

The AI Influencer Making 10,000 Euros a month

Aitana Lopez

Another AI-generated influencer is Aitana Lopez, or @fit_aitana, who has 264,000 followers on Instagram and makes over 10,000 Euros a month. Aitana was created by The Clueless , an agency based in Barcelona, and she was developed out of frustration with the fees being demanded by human influencers.

“We were taken aback by the skyrocketing rates influencers charge nowadays. That got us thinking, ‘What if we just create our own influencer.”

Here’s Aitana’s bio, which is posted on The Clueless website: Aitana Lopez is a strong and determined woman, independent in her actions and generous in her willingness to help others. With boldness and authenticity, she faces challenges and expresses her opinion without reservation, although her complicated humor and self-centeredness sometimes make it difficult to get a smile out of her, showing her complexity. As a content creator, she shines with extroversion, attracting attention with her striking character. As a passionate Scorpio, she highlights her love for video games and her dedication to the fitness lifestyle, evidencing her intensity and care for her physical well-being.”

Despite using the hastags #aimodel or #digitalinfluencer in their AI influencer’s bio or caption, most followers believe that Aitana is real. When I first saw her Instagram feed, I honestly thought so as well.

As reported here in the Financial Times, “We were taken aback by the skyrocketing rates influencers charge nowadays. That got us thinking, ‘What if we just create our own influencer?” said Diana Núñez, co-founder of The Clueless, the Barcelona-based agency that created Aitana Lopez. “The rest is history. We unintentionally created a monster. A beautiful one, though.”

“For a brand, they have total control versus a real person who comes with potential controversy, their own demands, their own opinions.”

The article continues: “Brands have been quick to engage with virtual influencers as a new way to attract attention while reducing costs. Influencers themselves have a lot of negative associations related to being fake or superficial, which makes people feel less concerned about the concept of that being replaced with AI or virtual influencers. For a brand, they have total control versus a real person who comes with potential controversy, their own demands, their own opinions.”

This raises a critical strategic question for brands: Why opt for a human influencer—who brings inherent risks and may lack a deep brand understanding, despite their extensive social reach and ability to amplify your message—for a significant fee?

By contrast, consider the advantages of crafting a bespoke AI influencer. Such an entity can be meticulously designed in every respect, eliminating concerns about inappropriate behavior or exorbitant fees for a few posts. Take the case of Aitana; The Clueless’s approach to her virtual creation was not just about her appearance, but rather a deep dive into a personality that resonates with brand values. This represents a shrewd move in influencer marketing strategy—and one that perhaps signals the beginning of the end of human influencers’ popularity.

Questions? Email me here and as always, thank you for reading.

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