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  • Writer's picture10 Days

The Rise of the AI Influencer: Disruption or Deception?

In the ever-evolving world of social media, a new breed of influencer is taking the stage: the AI-generated virtual influencer. With meticulously crafted features and curated lifestyles, these digital darlings are racking up followers and brand deals faster than you can say "algorithm." But as these AI avatars infiltrate our feeds, one can't help but wonder: is this the future of influencer marketing, or a dystopian deception?

Take Aitana Lopez, for example. With her baby pink hair and "perfect" selfies, she's amassed over 300k followers on Instagram. Brands are shelling out big bucks for her to promote their products, despite the fact that she's a digital creation. Created by the Barcelona-based agency The Clueless, Aitana is just one of the many virtual influencers making waves in the $21 billion content creator economy (Financial Times).

The allure for brands is clear: total control, reduced costs, and the ability to reach a diverse, global audience. Virtual influencers like Lil Miquela, who has worked with luxury powerhouses like Burberry and Prada, can command six-figure deals while avoiding the potential controversies and demands that come with human influencers and celebrities.

But as these AI influencers gain popularity, human content creators are starting to feel the heat. A lot of them stating that even them cannot tell that some of them are AI. The lack of regulation around disclosing their artificial nature only adds to the unease.

There's also the question of representation and exploitation. Many virtual influencers, like Lil Miquela and The Clueless's upcoming "curvy Mexican" creation Laila, are designed with racially ambiguous features to appeal to a broad audience. But as researcher Francesca Sobande points out, this can be seen as a hollow attempt at progressivism, driven by profit rather than genuine diversity. It also raises the question of whether artificial diversity's ability to increase representation takes job away from the people seeking representation? And how does one consolidate adding diversity while not financially benefiting diverse people?

Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela for Calvin Klein

Additionally, the hyper-sexualization of female AI influencers is another cause for concern. While human women have made

Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela for Calvin Klein
Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela for Calvin Klein

strides in reclaiming their agency and profiting from their own sexuality through platforms like OnlyFans, the creation of sexualised AI avatars by predominantly male teams feels like a step backward.

As we navigate this brave new world of virtual influence, it's crucial that we approach it with a critical eye. While the innovation and potential for disruption are undeniable, we must also consider the ethical implications and the impact on human creators. The rise of the AI influencer may be inevitable, but it's up to us to ensure that it doesn't come at the cost of authenticity, diversity, and fair play.

In the end, perhaps the real question isn't whether virtual influencers will replace their human counterparts, but rather how we can harness this technology to enhance and elevate the creative industry as a whole. One thing's for sure: it's just the beginning and it's time for us to catch up.


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