By Kim Jae-heun
Virtual characters are emerging as a trend in the digital advertising market as, unlike human commercial models, they have hardly any risk of getting dragged down in scandals, crimes and other negative social situations that can affect their images.
The biggest advantage of hiring a virtual character is that there is no time or space restriction on their activities. Companies can also optimize a digital model’s image to suit their promotional needs. In other words, artificial characters can be made into any type of entertainer ― be it an actor, fashion model or singer ― and their talents can be customized according to a brand’s wishes.
Unlike humans, virtual characters are a better choice in terms of cost and risk management. They can work all day throughout the year and there is very low chance of scandal.
Due to these advantages, digital humans are emerging as an enticing business model for both growth and profitability in the entertainment industry. Business insiders claim that firms’ spending on digital human marketing will grow to 16.6 trillion won by next year.
Lil Miquela is one successful example of the digital human model. The character, created in 2016 but said to be a 19-year-old Brazilian American, has 3.02 million followers on Instagram, and her digital single was the eighth-most-popular on the audio streaming service Spotify.
She has modeled for world-renowned fashion brands like Chanel and Prada, and she has signed a contract with Creative Artists Agency, one of the top three Hollywood agencies.
In 2020 alone, Miquela made 13 billion won ($11.33 million). She makes $8,500 per Instagram post.
Virtual characters are becoming popular here too.
Samsung Electronics introduced its first virtual character, NEON, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, and LG Electronics revealed its first at CES 2021 held online in January.
The existence of the Metaverse is helping virtual characters into advertising as they often appeal to the younger generations. More companies in the near future will use virtual characters for their advertising instead of human celebrities.
“As the ‘big blur’ phenomenon continues to fade the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds, marketing utilizing virtual characters will become more prominent,” said Seo Yong-gu, a business professor at Sookmyung Women’s University.