African marketers pick up on emerging ‘virtual influencer’ trend

By our News Team | 2022

Virtual influencers are most common in Asia and North America, but Africans are using new and often hybrid influencer solutions for brands.

Virtual influencers are fictional computer-generated ‘people’ who have realistic characteristics, features and personalities that mimic those of humans. 

Behind them are clever creators, be it brands or individuals, with a keen eye for technology and the way that human beings think and act. They are responsible for moulding these simulated figures into the internationally recognised social media personalities and influencers that we are seeing emerge in this sphere.

Influencer Marketing

African virtual influencer Kim Zulu. Photo credit: ‘Strategic Marketing for Africa’ magazine

Although virtual influencers are most common in Asia and North America, Africa picked up on this trend too, with our savvy marketers finding new and often hybrid influencer marketing solutions for brands.

The Avatar Company in South Africa debuted the country’s first virtual influencer in 2020, Kim Zulu. It has since gone on to launch two more virtual influencers as it pushes to get a share of this growing industry. Kim is a fashion virtual influencer who launched her own clothing collection and has even attended an international fashion week in Europe!

Virtual influencer hangs out in ‘real’ restaurants

Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela, was among the first AI social media influencers. A multi-hyphenate (very versatile) 19-year-old Brazilian- American influencer and music artist, ‘she’ sings, entertains and hangs out with real-life musicians, artists and influencers in trendy (also real-life) restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, where she ‘lives’.

According to Natasha Miller, Business Unit Manager at marketing agency The MediaShop, Miquela has partnered with major global brands such as Prada, Nike, Calvin Klein, Samsung and Mini. 

She has more than 3-million followers on Instagram, 3.6-million on TikTok and has even been one of Time magazine’s ’Most Influential People on the Internet’.

“Although [virtual influencers] are fictional AI- generated avatars, they tend to be ‘people’ with realistic characteristics, features and personalities,” says Miller.

“They behave just like real-life influencers. They speak to the camera, share emotions, selfies, experiences, creativity, opinions, feelings and thoughts. These appeal to their followers and create relevance.”

To read more about virtual influencers and their place on the African marketing scene, go to page 26 of the latest issue (Issue 3 2022) of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation. You can access the Digital Edition here.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.