Synthetic influencers: boom or bust?
The Future. Brands are experimenting more and more with “synthetic influencers” — digital anthropomorphic entities created for the sole purpose of marketing products. Corporations have been pouring money into the idea, but synthetic influencers haven’t gained much traction with audiences. Can money save them, or were they doomed to go belly-up from the get-go?
Synthetic influencers are both more and less appealing than human influencers for a few reasons.
- Lacking agency, synthetic influencers are trivially easy to control or reprogram and never experience burnout as humans do.
- Because they’re so reliable and scalable, companies are immediately willing to sink money into them. Major corporations — including Amazon, Google, and Sony — have already poured $58 million into a single synthetic influencer firm: Superplastic.
- But these characters aren’t introduced to the public through a compelling narrative or artistic context like characters from an animated movie or game franchise. They’re purely commercial vessels, and so far, that’s made them struggle to gain audiences.
Money can buy me love?
Generally, influencer marketing is only getting stronger. Just because synthetic influencers haven’t caught on yet doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. If it’s a matter of presentation or the public getting used to them, backing from corporations like Amazon and Google will certainly give these synthetic beings the reach they’d need to blow up.
For now, at least, we’ll have to settle for human beings.