Author Jamin Warren traces the beginnings of virtual influencers back to the appearance of avatars, explaining why these synthetic characters don't have to be 'real' as much as they have to convey an authentic and coherent identity that clearly personifies a brand

From posting fake sponsored content to pretending to fly on private jets, influencer culture has sometimes been guilty of fakeness, but the next wave of virtual influencers reaches a new level of illusion. Lil Miquela is one such star, with 1.5 million followers on Instagram. She has partnered with GIPHY and Prada, posed wearing Diesel and Moncler, and even moonlighted as a contributing arts editor to Dazed Magazine.

Investors are in. After closing a round of financing earlier this year, Brud, the AI company who created Lil Miquela, became worth $125 million. Brud isn’t alone, either. Venture-backed companies like Shadows, SuperPlastic and Toonstar are also developing virtual influencers.

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