These influencers are so fake… no, really

Virtual influencers are on the rise. Are these characters the next Marvel or Disney?

By this point, you may already be familiar with Lil Miquela — the virtual influencer with 2.8m Instagram followers and major brand deals.

The company behind the creation, Brud, raised $25m+ at a valuation of $144m+ before being acquired by the NFT startup Dapper Labs in 2021.

Now, a different Vermont-based company wants to create the Disney of digital influencers.

Superplastic…

… is a startup founded by Paul Budnitz, who previously founded designer toy company KidRobot.

Much like Marvel, Superplastic wants to build a universe around its cartoonish characters, per TechCrunch. They include:

  • Guggimon, a DJ and horror artist
  • Janky, a “streetwear icon”
  • Dayzee, a flirtatious nuclear physicist

They appear on social media and as playable “Fortnite” skins, and collaborate with brands like Tommy Hilfiger. Oh, and they’re getting a TV show.

Amazon’s Alexa Fund…

… led a $20m funding round for Superplastic, and Amazon Studios will produce an animated comedy starring the trio. If this video of Guggimon mainlining booze and pills is any indication, it won’t be for kids, but may play well with Amazon hits like “The Boys” and “Invincible.”

Budnitz also told TechCrunch that he’s interested in what his IP company could do with Amazon-owned Whole Foods — virtual influencers may not eat, but they can probably hawk branded energy drinks.

What’s the appeal?

People already purchase things their favorite TV characters wear (see the buzz around Pedro Pascal’s trucker jacket from “The Last of Us”). Many believe that virtual influencers can, and will, inspire similar consumerism.

A survey from The Influencer Marketing Factory found that:

  • 58% of respondents followed at least one virtual influencer
  • 35% bought something one promoted

Companies already pay China’s Baidu $2.8k-$14.3k per year for virtual influencers who appear on livestreams — and Baidu says this part of their business has doubled since 2021.

An added bonus: Much like the Terminator, they don’t sleep, age, or complain. They also don’t get embroiled in scandals, unless by design — like the time Lil Miquela was hacked by a rival.

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