Having just launched a talent agency to dovetail with my PR firm, TransMedia Group, I’m wondering now why did I do it?


Balmain’s digital models Margot, Shudu and Zhi created by Cameron-James Wilson.                                                                                                                           CreditBalmain

Since millions are following a growing number of influencers who are merely pretty pixels, I’m wondering why hire a flesh and blood celebrity, a supermodel or a social media influencer to market products when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?

I’ll tell you why.

Virtual influencers have their “strawbacks,” my new AI word for “drawbacks.”

While virtual influencers are rising in popularity, fans are engaging less with them than with the average fashion tastemaker online, according to Captiv8, which connects companies to social media influencers.

So why spend a lot of time pixelating and promoting an avatar who is basically a souped-up mannequin in a wider online shop window called the Internet.

I’m here live and well to tell you that a flesh and blood influencer can be much more peer-to-peer persuasive?

Yes, I still have hope for humans in advertising and on social media.  So MaddenTalent models relax, don’t leave me.

And then there are these mega embarrassments, if pixelators don’t look out.

According to an article in The New York Times by Tiffany Hsu, the kiss between Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa, part of a Calvin Klein commercial last month, struck many viewers as unrealistic, even offensive.

“Ms. Hadid, a supermodel, identifies as heterosexual, and the ad sparked complaints Calvin Klein was deceiving customers with a sham lesbian encounter.

“The fashion company apologized for “queerbaiting” after the 30-second spot appeared online.”

Still, Ms. Hadid, is heavenly human. Everything about Ms. Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is hellishly manufactured: the straight-cut bangs, Brazilian-Spanish heritage, her beautiful friends.

Lil Miquela, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, is a computer-generated virtual influencer.  Still, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify each month.

Until last year, many of her fans assumed she was a flesh-and-blood 19-year-old. But Lil Miquela is composed of pixels and was designed to attract follows and likes.  Maybe proposals?

Today her success raises a question for companies hoping to connect with consumers spending copious time online: Why hire a celebrity, a supermodel or even a social media influencer  when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?

That’s what the fashion label Balmain did last year when it had British artist Cameron-James Wilson design a “diverse mix” of digital models, including a white woman, a black woman and an Asian woman.

The rising presence of remarkably realistic computer-generated beings in ads is startling and can lead to manipulated videos that can make Nancy Pelosi appear to be slurring and Mona Lisa speaking.

Yes, these are boldly creative, digitally-treacherous times as humans become more adept at faking reality.

Has “Fake News” now gone digitally into online advertising?


Bella Hadid, left, an influencer on social media, and her digital counterpart Miquela Sousa in a Calvin Klein commercial.                                                             CreditCalvin Klein

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