CGI Influencers: The Creations Posed as People, Persuading Audiences Worldwide
Today, “reality” doesn’t feel entirely real. It feels like we’re living in Ray Bradbury’s best-selling novel, Fahrenheit 451, where digital media manifestations influence our emotions as we cater to the wants of the few instead of the needs of the many. It’s time we stop and think about how we interact with the world—with people. What’s brought this thought into my mind on a Friday morning? CGI Influencers.
You’ve likely heard about influencer marketing, but, for those unfamiliar with the practice, I’ll give you a quick run-down: Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on collaborating with key industry leaders to drive brand message and awareness to a specific market of consumers. In non-marketing speak, influencer marketing is the practice of hiring individuals with a celebrity-like following of fans on social media who genuinely enjoy/respect the opinion of that influencer. The term influencer is given because these individuals have gained such credibility with their following that they possess the power of persuasion over their audience; they can influence that audience to make purchases, drive interest in a particular product/service/topic and more.
And, there are some powerful statistics that show influencer marketing works: 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations to inform their purchases—and 40% of that 49% purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram; 74% of people trust social networks (and their users) to guide their purchasing decisions; and Twitter reports an increase in purchase intent of 5.2x among users who’ve seen an influencer’s content. There are many more statistics that indicate influencer marketing’s effectiveness, but these three examples show why so many businesses are including influencer marketing in their marketing strategies.
Now, a new breed of influencer is making its way into those marketing strategies: CGI influencers. Like traditional influencers, CGI influencers are used to drive brand messages and awareness to their own unique audience. The creepy part? They’re not actual people. CGI influencers often have the appearance of a real person, but they’re nothing more than manufactured personas developed by highly intelligent graphic artists, writers, programmers—in a word: marketers.
As a social media manager, I think this new take on an existing strategy to increase a brand’s influence among social media users is interesting. There are definite benefits of working with an influencer who isn’t a person; computers have no enormous egos to deal with, nor late responses or delays in actions which were agreed upon.
But, as a person with a mind inclined to philosophical thought, I’m torn. If social media users (AKA people) share a common interest and can relate to a persona, whether artificial or authentic, and can connect with other individuals that share similar interests, I don’t think it matters that the common ground they share (the influencer they follow) is with a non-physical being. Connecting with CGI influencers isn’t all that different from finding yourself emotionally connected to a character in a fiction novel—and, as an avid reader, I’ve been lucky enough to do that many times. On the flip-side of the coin, I find the idea of creating a counterfeit person—designing the way they look, act, feel and behave—and then giving living, breathing people the impression that that counterfeit person is real…uncomfortable, to say the least.
Only time will tell if the use of CGI influencers will overtake traditional (human) influencers in the years to come. And, I’ll have many more Friday mornings to mull my thoughts and feelings over their use and the social and societal implications of doing so. I think we’ll all have more moral quandaries to think about in the years to come—as technology continues to blend the line between authentic reality and fabricated representations of it. Let’s just hope there’s plenty of coffee for our future Friday morning musings!
Author: Eric Troy, Social Media Manager.