What do CGI influencers mean for the future of advertising?

Influencers seem to have it all.  They are beautiful people in the most stylish clothes endorsing a product that makes them look and feel fabulous.  If you buy that product, you can look just as amazing.  But what if those beautiful people aren’t actually real?  Meet Miquela, a CGI influencer who has over 1 million followers on Instagram (Yurieff, 2018).  She has partnered with the likes of Giphy and Prada, has appeared in Vogue, and looks like she has the most amazing life.  Except she isn’t human.  Miquela shocked the public when, after two years of being an influencer, she revealed that she is actually a CGI model. As AI influencers become more common, this could change the future of advertising, both for companies and consumers.

miq eating
Photo Credit: Lil Miquela Instagram

For brands, CGI models are the ideal models.  There is no fear of public scandals or surprises from a model’s past that could harm the reputation of the brand.  Brands also have much more control over the image of the model than they would using a real human (Yurieff, 2018).  Some brands, such as Barneys, are simply interested in reaching Miquela’s wide following and do not mind the fact that she is not an actual human being (Yurieff, 2018).

miq drinking
Photo Credit: Lil Miquela Instagram

But what does this mean for consumers?  Human influencers can give insight about a product, including what they like about it and why they use it.  But CGI models can’t do this.  If someone doesn’t know that the influencer is actually a CGI model who has never used the product, are they being deceived?  Advocator Yooh Ahn, who created the Ambush brand and has worked with Miquela, tells CNN Tech that it is no different than the enhanced photos that are posted on Instagram.  Since those products don’t actually give the consumer those lips or hair, the posts aren’t presenting a truthful reality. (Yurieff, 2018).  Some argue that human influencers on Instagram already feel fake.  Everything is too picture-perfect to feel real, which makes Instagram the perfect platform for CGI models to take the stage (Rosenblatt, 2018).  Although the Federal Trade Commission has rules that require endorsers to disclose that they are being paid, there are currently no rules for CGI models.  But if a CGI model does not disclose that he or she is being paid, it is unclear who the FTC would fine (Katz, 2018).

The rise of CGI models certainly raises many ethical questions. Do you think CGI models are deceiving to consumers, or are they simply the future of advertising?


Yurieff, K. (2018, June 25). Instagram star isn’t what she seems. But brands are buying in. Money.CNN.com. Retrieved from https://money.cnn.com/2018/06/25/technology/lil-miquela-social-media-influencer-cgi/index.html

Katz, M. (2018, May 1). CGI ‘Influencers’ Like Lil Miquela Are About to Flood Your Feeds. Wired.com. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/lil-miquela-digital-humans/

Rosenblatt, K. (2018, July 22). What’s human? Instagram’s faux influencers gain real followers. Nbcnews.com. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/what-s-human-instagram-s-faux-influencers-gain-real-followers-n893341

Featured photo from Lil Miquela. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/lilmiquela/