Virtual Influencers – the next hype in influencer marketing?
OMD Germany
27 May 2021

This article was originally published by Business Punk and has been translated into English.


More than five million people currently follow the influencer Lu do Magalu on Instagram. At the same time, the model Miquela Sousa has more than three million Instagram followers. They are making a name for themselves as the face of a global brand campaign for the Mini automobile brand. Both have one thing in common: they are virtual 3D influencers, i.e. artificially created digital avatars.

But what about the credibility of this new species? After all, credibility is one of the main success factors in influencer marketing, alongside authenticity. In a Xcelerate online survey, the media agency OMD Germany sheds light on the perception of virtual influencers among consumers in Germany.

1,005 people were interviewed by OMD’s marketing experts. Surprisingly, 39% of these are open to virtual influencers. That is, the majority of them see no difference in credibility (35%) compared to real characters. This creates opportunities for brands to work with virtual influencers – especially in “older” target groups.

The older the person, the more indifferent it is to social media users whether they interact with a digital or real person. While 59% of the 18-30 year olds state that a real person as an influencer is more credible than a virtual person, yet the figure is only 39% for the over 30 year olds.

Yet, with younger target groups, the desire for real influencers is greater. OMD analysts suspect an increased desire for orientation and the search for people to identify with at eye level in the development phase of younger consumers.

An international comparison shows that the typical followers of virtual influencers are younger. According to an analysis by HypeAuditor, their followers are mostly female and between 18-34 years old. In the analysis, Hypeauditor analyzed 88 digital avatars that mainly originate in Asian or American countries.

This is also confirmed by the follower data from the Traackr analysis platform for Lil Miquela’s Instagram account. According to this, 38% of their followers come from the USA and half of these followers are no more than 20 years old. This is where consumers tick differently in Germany: The results of the OMD Xcelerate survey show that women in Germany are still skeptical about virtual influencers.

49% of them state that they classify real people as influencers: more credibly than virtual influencers. Among the male respondents, it is only 38%. The topic of virtual influencers is therefore not yet accepted by all social media users in Germany – but there is a fundamental openness.

The opportunities and barriers for brands in Germany

Virtual influencers can also be an exciting and sensational alternative to real influencers for brands in Germany. While real influencers stand for authenticity, digital avatars add something magical and entertaining from the virtual world – like in a movie or a dream.

It is no surprise that industries such as fashion and cosmetics, where vision and imagination are part of the product experience, are one of the pioneers here. It is less important to follow a hype than to weigh up whether virtual influencers fit the goal.

And as always in influencer marketing, the same applies: the cooperation partners must be selected very carefully. Your personality should match the brand and your followers should match the desired brand target group.


About the authors:

A guest contribution by Stephan Naumann, Director Insight Planning OMD, and Cosima Daubenbüchel, Executive Client Service OMD.


To read the full article, click here.


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