Kyra is an AI generated meta-influencer, and despite being an animated fake model, her page is raking in the big bucks from ad campaigns.
Dark-haired, sharp-featured, young and beautiful influencer Kyra (@kyraonig) is a crowd favourite on Instagram. She celebrated Independence Day in a salwar kameez and proudly held the Indian flag, just as easily as she makes a cooking video from her kitchen to promote a brand of oats. In fact, she is just like any other Gen-Z influencer on the block… Or so you might believe if her photos or reels pop up on your feed. In reality though, she is the opposite. Kyra is an AI generated meta-influencer, and despite being an animated fake model, her page is raking in the big bucks from ad campaigns and engagement through hundreds of thousands of followers. Kyra is Indian, but there are many who surpass her perfection from around the world.
These pages are created by marketing or technology companies, and the money goes to the owners.
Kyraonig, for example, was created / is owned by the marketing agency TopSocial India, and the project lead who created her is Himanshu Goel. She has even graced the cover of Travel & Leisure magazine’s digital edition.
Similarly, Lil Miquela and her boyfriend Blawko are owned by Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou’s American tech company Brud.
Lil Miquela from LA boasts 2.7M followers on the ‘gram and is in an active (thought limited to social media!) relationship with fellow fake model Blawko (@blawko22), who is always pictured with the lower half of his face masked or covered. Shudu (@shudu.gram) is British and claims to be the world’s first AI supermodel, while Imma (@imma.gram) is a ‘virtual girl’ from Tokyo who loves fashion, art, films and more. However, none of these can beat Milla Sofia (@millasofiafin), a stunning beauty from Norway whose bikini-clad pictures have fooled millions of people on X (formerly Twitter) to believe she is real.
Commanding such a large following increases the ability of these pages to monetise their work by promoting brands on their profiles. A study carried out in 2022 by American company, The Influencer Marketing Factory, determined that 58 percent of Americans surveyed followed at least one virtual influencer that had been created using AI. These models reportedly charge anything from a few hundred to thousands of dollars for promotional campaigns.
"The way people consume content is changing, and this new type of content might become the norm over time," says Christina Furtado, illustrator, animator and content creator (@_potatoface_). "I believe people follow these accounts despite knowing they are fake for a few reasons. Firstly, the concept of AI-generated accounts is still fresh and intriguing, sparking curiosity about their direction and the content they will produce. In today’s fast-paced world, people are genuinely interested in exploring what’s new and innovative in the market."
She adds that the allure of novelty often drives initial interest in any new concept, even if there is no emotional connection. "So, the combination of curiosity and the desire for the latest trends contributes to people following these accounts, even though they understand they are not authentic," Furtado explains.
With AI generated content being easier, faster and cheaper to produce, one wonders what this means for the future of the content creation industry in general. According to content creator Ayush Chudiwala (@ayush_chudiwala), "The boon of AI generated content is the speed at which it could be created but the bane is that it could lead to unrealistic and unmatchable expectations and beauty standards for viewers and brands investing money because nearly anything could be achieved to perfection in no time. This could further lead to insecurity amongst viewers and other content creators about their looks and capabilities."
That may be so but there is no denying that brands feel it is a safer bet to work with fake influencers for a number of reasons. Most notably, AI generated beings can easily be moulded by the brand in question — even their identities can be re-shaped to act a certain way. This means there are no conflicts of opinion or affiliations from the past that may come in the way of spreading the message the brand wants to share.
Further, with data published on Statista.com showing that 58 percent of mega influencers were involved in fraudulent activity in the year 2022 to inflate their engagement and number of followers, it is becoming increasingly hard for brands to rely on humans as being truthful and above board. By choosing an AI-generated model, this risk is at least eliminated.
This may not, however, mean that AI models will replace human influencers. Dhananjay Bhosale (@dhananjay_tech), a content creator in the technology space says, "As of right now, AI content can easily be differentiated from that of a regular person when it comes to complex emotions. But as AI gets better and better, this may become a threat to content creation because, with AI, content creation can be instant and the frequency of posting videos can be much higher as well. A normal human being with a team of five people will not be able to beat a single person creating AI content due to its fast pace."
He ends by highlighting that AI is the future, but it must be governed by regulations that will determine the future of this industry and the content creators that depend on it.
(Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications.)