The Rise of Animated Virtual Influencers

From photo-realistic humans to synthetic characters

Social media has always been an entertainment platform. It began as a way to keep track of friends' activities. Eventually, it grew into a way to identify global trends. But recently, a new phenomenon has emerged: virtual influencers.

Virtual influencers are also known as synthetic or digital influencers. These characters are digitally-created and have their own personalities and interests. To reach their audiences, they often have their own social media accounts or exist within the metaverse. While humans or animation studios typically create them initially and direct their content strategy and brand partnerships, artificial intelligence typically drives these characters’ personalities, voices, and more.

Written by Max Richards
April 4, 2023


The Big Picture

Brand influencers are one of the fastest growing tools for brands, agencies, and marketers around the world. People tend to trust people in what are good products or services to consume. From personal testimonials in commercials to word of mouth recommendations, influencer marketing draws on the same human behavior only in the context of newer technology.

Virtual influencers have blurred the line between reality and synthetic. While audiences have proven they can willingly develop trust with synthetic characters (i.e. cartoon characters on cereal boxes), there is still a wide range of character types. While some audiences will gravitate more towards photo-realistic or humanoid characters, other audiences may enjoy the detachment from reality or weirdness of non-human, cartoonish characters.

To show examples of this range, here are some of the most famous virtual influencers, starting with the most human-looking to the least.


Lil Miquela (@lilmiquela)

Lil Miquela, also known as Miquela Sousa, is a virtual influencer with over 3 million followers on Instagram. She has worked with top fashion brands like Prada, Dior, and Calvin Klein. Her young audience, dubbed “Miqaliens”, follow her for her content around fashion, music, and charitable causes.


Lu of Magalu (@magazineluiza)

While most virtual influencers are independent, Lu of Magalu is actually owned by Magazine Luiza, a Brazilian retail company, and was originally created as the in-store voice and virtual private assistant for shoppers. She was created in 2009, and since has built a following of 6.3M followers on Instagram and 7.2M on TikTok.

She has appeared in music videos, reality shows, and in many TV commercials. She's also partnered with brands such as McDonald's, adidas, Red Bull, and more. While her fanbase is mostly in Brazil, she is arguably the most famous virtual influencer in the world.


Seraphine (@seradotwav)

Created by Riot Games, Seraphine is a virtual influencer best known for her association with League of Legends and the music group K/DA. Being a playable character in LoL, she has a unique artistic look synonymous with the LoL universe. Her content typically revolves around being a music artist and gaming.

Seraphine has not existed without controversy though. Fans have criticized elements of Seraphine's backstory and her marketing strategy. In 2021, a real person named Stephanie filed a lawsuit against Riot Games for using her likeness to create the character. As the lines further blur between real people and virtual influencers, this conversation will inevitably continue.


Apoki (@imapoki)

Also leaning heavily into music, Apoki is a K-pop artist created by Afun-interactive who has gained over 4.5 million followers on TikTok. While maintaining many human characteristics, her big rabbit ears add to her recognizability. Additionally, her backup dancer duo, Ovadozu (@ovadozu.vv), has gained a significant following on social media as well.

While many virtual influencers use Instagram or TikTok to reach their audience base, Apoki has stated that she prefers YouTube to connect with her audience. Apoki's upbeat and optimistic personality, along with her somewhat cartoonish look, have made her a favorite of fans around the world.


Guggimon & Janky (@guggimon & @janky)

Part of the Superplastic universe, Guggimon, Janky, and their friend Dayzee are some of the most unique virtual influencers out there. Guggimon and Janky are constantly getting into trouble and although they don’t have musical careers of their own like many others on this list, they have partnered with brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Mercedes-Benz, Vince Staples, and more.

At Deep Sky, we teamed up with Superplastic to create social media content across Instagram and TikTok. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out here.


Any Malu (@anymalu_real)

With over 3 million subscribers on YouTube, Any Malu is a uniquely exciting virtual influencer. Originally created in Brazil, she has built a following across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Her account is now managed by Combo Estudio.

After garnering a ton of cross-platform engagement on social media, she also stars in her own TV show on Cartoon Network in Brazil. As virtual influencers continue to grow their following on social media, it is no doubt that they will continue to grow across other platforms.


Nobody Sausage (@nobodysausage)

Some influencers aren’t even human, like Nobody Sausage. Being an anthropomorphized, stylized ‘sausage’, his content leans to being very comedic and goofy. Nobody Sausage was created by Kael Cabral in March 2020 with his first TikTok video. That video actually showed a 2D version of the character, but with a growing fan base, Nobody Sausage was eventually created in 3D.

Born in the COVID era, Nobody Sausage delighted fans looking for lighthearted humor. After only 3 years, Nobody Sausage is one of the most popular virtual influencers on TikTok with over 20M followers.

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