Robot influencers: Prada, Calvin Klein, Versace turn to deepfakes for social media marketing with AI

Sep 04, 2023
Robot influencers: Prada, Calvin Klein, Versace turn to deepfakes for social media marketing with AI

Big luxury brands are recruiting robot influencers to promote their products. Could this be the future of marketing and what will it mean for influencers?

Within the vast landscape of social media, there has been a noticeable uptake in influencers and influencer management teams using AI to either create new content or refine their existing creations.

Yet, a novel phenomenon has begun to unfold: the emergence of AI-powered influencers. Whether they’re robots or human influencers whose content is assisted by AI, it is safe to say that this will mean a revolution for the creator economy, which, according to Goldman Sachs, is worth $250 billion in 2023.

This will impact the way marketing experts, influencer management agencies, social media influencers, and brands work moving forward as more uses for AI continue to emerge.

Illustrious brands like Prada, Calvin Klein and Versace have already begun to experiment with them. Even existing human influencers, rather than being mere users of AI, are now relinquishing the rights to their face and identity to create AI clones of themselves available for countless followers to interact with. One such example of this trend is CarynAI, an AI-powered conversational entity meticulously modelled after influencer Caryn Marjorie, who is now known as the “AI Girlfriend.”

AI may well change the dynamic between brands and influencers, as many in the creator economy turn to tools like ChatGPT to finetune their written content or platforms like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion to generate videos and deepfakes.

AI-powered influencers

“We’re already seeing the emergence of AI-powered virtual influencers with their own ultra-realistic avatars, personalities, voices, and content creation capabilities. While some might view this as a threat to human influencers, I believe there’s space for both to coexist in the influencer marketing landscape,” David Bekhazi, Regional Creative Director at Dubai-based marketing agency House of Comms told Arabian Business.

“AI influencers offer efficiency and scalability — plus, they can be cost-effective — but then again, how likely is an audience to engage genuinely with something that’s not human?”

For influencers, AI can automate certain aspects of their process like imagery, videos and written content, posing a huge opportunity for them to streamline the content creation process, giving them more time to focus on other tasks that require “a more human touch,” he explained.

It can also generate content ideas and even assist in the production of content itself.

“This collaboration between man and machine could lead to a fusion of human creativity and AI elements, which could make for some unique and engaging content.”

But this then gives rise to the “trust issue,” he said.

‘How can AI have an opinion?’

The use of AI in product promotion has sparked debates in creative industries, particularly regarding the role of influencers. In this context, social media influencers may no longer need to personally engage with or experience the product in order to effectively promote it on behalf of the brand, because AI can do it instead.

This is a sentiment that does not sit well with many influencers who feel that by using AI in these cases betrays the trust of consumers.

“When a real person advises you about a product, it means they have probably tried it. How can AI have an opinion? How can you use AI to promote a product when it hasn’t even tried it?” Dubai-based comedian and fitness influencer Stefania Totolo told Arabian Business.

“I’m sponsored by HUGE Supplements, but before I signed the contract, I spent two months trying their products. Once I tried them, I knew what was good and what didn’t work for me but maybe it will work for others. I only promote stuff that has worked for me. So how can AI do this if it cannot actually try the products? Maybe AI can reach more people, but it cannot give an exact opinion about a product.”

In other cases, Bekhazi believes that audiences may eventually find it hard to discern between real influencers and AI-generated content, which means a “massive breach of trust.”

“At the end of the day, striking that delicate balance between leveraging AI and maintaining ethical – and transparent – human creativity is crucial for influencers navigating this exponentially evolving landscape.”

Virtual influencers

Lil Miquela is a virtual influencer driven by AI, with a significant Instagram following who’s collaborated with brands like Calvin Klein and Prada. According to her Instagram bio, the influencer is a “19-year-old robot living in LA” and has over 3 million followers. She is one of a growing number of virtual human-like influencers with a prolific online following.

Similar content creators include Lu do Magalu (over 6 million Instagram followers), and Indonesian “meta-human” Thalasya (464,000 followers).

Lu do Magalu, whose following is most prominent in Brazil, has represented brands from many different industries and has been featured in product reviews and unboxing videos.

Thalasya has also advertised for brands from various industries, including tech and hospitality, but most recently Cannon Indonesia.

Though still not the most common form of influencer marketing, using virtual influencers can help brands stand out among others who are already using platforms like TikTok and Instagram. And since digital content can be created so quickly nowadays with the explosion of generative AI tools, brands might be willing to collaborate with virtual influencers.

Campaigns using virtual influencers have proven to be highly successful, given that they attain almost three times the level of engagement their human counterparts can achieve. According to a recent survey by the Influencer Marketing Factory, almost 60 percent of respondents said they already follow one or more virtual influencers and over a third have purchased a product promoted by these influencers.

“It’s something we discuss regularly at House of Comms throughout HoC Debates. For me, I envision AI becoming hugely instrumental in content creation for influencers,” said Bekhazi.

“AI collaborations should be viewed on a case-by-case basis. Brands should consider the trade-offs in terms of authenticity, emotional connection, and flexibility, as well as the potential risks associated with AI influencers and content. For example, AI content can be unpredictable, occasionally producing unintended or inappropriate results due to biases or limitations in the training data.”

Need for ‘human touch’ remains

“AI is just that: a tool – it’s only as powerful or effective as the person wielding it,” said Bekhazi.

“The decision about whether to embrace or exercise caution with AI depends on an influencer’s goals, their values, and what their audience has come to expect from them.”

He explained that influencers should consider authenticity, human connection and uniqueness when choosing to use AI in their content, without becoming fully reliant on the technology to the point of creating cliche or formulaic content.

“On human-AI influencer campaigns, we encourage influencers to balance AI content with their own personal touch, storytelling voice, and creativity so that the content stands out from the crowd,” he said.

“It’s important to monitor the impact of AI on influencer campaigns. You need to collect feedback, analyse metrics, and adapt strategies based on the insights gained. It’s the only way to optimise campaigns for success.”

Source: arabianbusiness