Brands hoping to gain a marketing advantage next year could turn to CGI in the quest for a perfect social influencer partnership.

That’s the prediction made by Kam Zulawski, MD of EMEA at influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ.

‘Virtual influencers’ including Lil Miquela, Noonoouri and shudu.gram have amassed millions of followers on Instagram in 2019 despite being nothing more than a well-rendered 3D model.

The accounts, which began shrouded in mystery, are now leaking into mainstream acceptance, modelling real clothes, and appearing in photos with human celebrities.

Zulawski said that a partnership with these ‘influencers’, could potentially offer more benefit than a human counterpart.

“Use of CGI influencers can be effective for brands that want full brand control over their content and can help mitigate risk, with posts outside of brand-guidelines with real influencers from the past being surfaced as an example,” he said.

“Virtual influencer posts are made digitally. Influencers can be situated anywhere in the world and be placed in thrilling situations and exotic locations without needing actual real-world travel or production to pull off. What’s exciting about all of these is that the technology is still in its relative infancy.”

Zulawski’s employer, CreatorQI, works with Ralph Lauren, Disney, Salesforce and Unilever to help manage influencer partnerships.

He said that as the trend evolves in the new year, AI will be important in creating and rendering new CGI influencers which are indistinguishable from human models.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the future of virtual influencers. CGI combined with AI can deliver more realistic and human-like renderings.

“AI could also help create virtual influencers with richer personalities. While the textual content for today’s virtual influencers are still managed by human writers, AI can soon be used to automatically generate content.

“Chatbot technology could even allow virtual influencers to freely interact with their followers. Imagine a world where you can have 100% influencer engagement rates globally and at scale, that could be on the cards for the future.”

Zulawski warned that while this new species of influencer should pose less risk to brand credibility than a human-being prone to human mistakes, at present these influencers are still at the mercy of human decisions.

Calvin Klein earlier this year issued an apology to the LGBTQ community, after it came under fire for a video campaign showing human model Bella Hadid kissing female CGI influncer Lil Miquela.

“Trust and authenticity play a huge part in successful influencer campaigns,” he said.