Influencers being replaced by AI is the least surprising thing about our current times. The final evolution of an always-on public figure frenetically posting more or less doctored pictures of products, places, and events with carefully curated comments was always a bot. For the brands, it also means unmitigated control of the virtual influencer without the risk of having to deal with unwelcomed racial slurs, sex, or drug abuse. (People are messy.)

All this at a fraction of the cost.

It's even funny, to a certain degree, that real influencers don't see how being so artificial themselves about... everything made them a perfect target for AI.

What freaks me out about these influencers is how hard it is to tell they’re fake. – Danae Mercer (2 million followers)

Facebook (erm, Meta) is already pushing this scenario as a central business case for its VR platform:

H&M saw an 11x increase in ad recall by featuring virtual content creators in Instagram video ads to promote its Innovation Metaverse Design Story collection in the US.

We could argue that no one is in the metaverse for now, so an 11x or 110x improvement on mostly nothing doesn't mean much. But there's TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and other traditional social media. In the $21 billion content creator economy, artificial intelligence barging in is quite a perfect case study for disruption.

The very much virtual Aitana Lopez already has about a quarter million very real social media followers on Instagram.

Why should you care?

I'm writing more and more about branding lately. Not so much because marketing is of any sort of interest to me (beyond being a valuable tool for innovators) but because my brain is wired to see disruptions coming. And most of what I've seen done around branding these last 15 years has been... mmh, how can I put it... lazy. At best. The whole sector has been repeatedly digesting and redigesting the same tropes, strategies, ideas, and content. Unsurprisingly, this is the perfect material for AI, which will be better and faster at redoing the same thing. Probably even better.

This disruption in the making is another indicator of what AI will replace rapidly. Any job, trade, profession, or business model with no critical added value and only driven by cost will be replaced. What is true for influencers will also be true for consultants, doctors, or attorneys.

Influencers are just canaries in the coal mine.

It's still time to take notice.

[ Update / Jan. 10, 2024 ] Models too.

AI Threatens to Push Human Fashion Models Out of the Picture
Shereen Wu, a Taiwanese-American model, didn’t ask for money to participate in an October fashion show. Then 21, the Californian was in it for the exposure.
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