BANGKOK, November 21 – Sporting neon hair and flawless skin, Bangkok Naughty Boo is one of a new generation of influencers in Asia vowing to stay young, trendy and scandal-free forever – because they’re computer generated.
Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, these stars are hugely popular with local teens and will give growing power as interest in the “metaverse” grows, according to industry experts.
“I’m 17 forever, non-binary, with a dream of becoming a pop star,” Bangkok Naughty Boo – who uses them / them pronouns – said in an introductory video sent to AFP.
Created by fashion designer Adisak Jirasakkasem and his friends, who imagined a fluid gender figure to hook the ideals of the artist community, the character is part of a tribe of “Made in Thailand” virtual influencers born from pressures of Covid-19.
In September, Ai-Ailynn made her debut – she was formed after her agency was frustrated by the “limitations of human influencers” during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Virtual influencers “are fit for the new normal,” SIA Bangkok told AFP.
Artificial intelligence creations are gaining a foothold in the lucrative influencer market around the world, which is expected to grow to $ 13.8 billion in 2021, according to data giant Statista.
But industry analysts say Asia is where the industry will experience real boom over the next decade.
“We believe Asia will be an area of rapid growth in the virtual influencer industry. Gen Z is the largest group of internet users in Asia, and they are a digitally savvy generation who are very familiar with social media and all things virtual, ”said Nick Baklanov, Marketing Specialist at Hype Auditor.
“First inhabitants of the metaverse”
The number of virtual influencers has more than tripled to 130 in two years, according to Baklanov, who predicted that Facebook’s investment in the metaverse – dubbed a VR version of the internet – would mean an industry boom.
“Virtual influencers are better suited to the role of the original inhabitants of the metaverse than anyone,” he added.
The biggest virtual income would be Lil Miquela, the Los Angeles-based “It-Girl robot” who has worked with Prada and Calvin Klein, and who earns around $ 7,000 per post.
The World Health Organization has recruited Knox Frost, a 21-year-old AI “universal adapter” from Atlanta, to deliver coronavirus safety messages to its 700,000 subscribers.
In Asia, computer-generated pop stars including Japanese Hatsune Miku and Luo Tianyi from China, as well as virtual K-Pop groups Eternity and K / DA, have paved the way for new “stars” as the technology is improving.
To create Bangkok Naughty Boo, Adisak photographed a model at various locations in the Thai capital before creating the character’s face online.
He fused the computer-generated face and the real model’s body to make her his virtual idol.
Bangkok Naughty Boo has already signed with a leading Thai – human – model agency, while Ai-Ailynn has already made a deal to be the face of a major mobile operator.
“Influencers give more power to the East and offer more lucrative branding and engagement opportunities, as the concepts of idol and fandom are more ingrained in the culture,” explained Saisangeeth Daswani, analyst at the fashion and beauty industry to the market intelligence company Stylus.
Controlled, Scandal-Free Lives – With a problem-free past, a 24-hour work ethic, and easily vetted public figures, fictional avatars are also a respite for companies weary of damaging their reputations.
“Some brands appreciate the security of partnering with (virtual) influencers who have predefined histories and futures,” commented Christopher Travers, founder of Virtual Humans, an industry monitoring website.
And with authorities in some Asian countries controlling free speech, companies may prefer the ability to control everything.
“The recent Chinese government crackdown on exorbitantly paid, ‘vulgar’ and ‘immoral’ influencers is likely to further increase the appeal of virtual influencers,” said Chen May Yee, APAC director for Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.
“They won’t make rude comments or get involved in sex scandals.”
SIA Bangkok says there has been huge interest in Ai-Ailynn with companies in pandemic-ravaged Asia seeking “innovation and a new world order.”
A disruption of the status quo may worry some content creators in the flesh, but human influencer Mutchima Wachirakomain welcomes newcomers.
“They’re really cool,” exclaimed the 25-year-old, who shares glamorous snaps alongside “no-filter” makeup looks to her 21,100 Instagram followers.
“People always yearn for the authenticity, the reality of a real influencer,” she said as she prepared for a shoot at an avocado-themed cafe.
“Characters cannot replace the intimate bonds humans have with each other.”
But Bangkok Naughty Boo is ready to give it a try.
Their Instagram is a mix of cheeky sets shot against the backdrop of Thailand’s concrete jungle capital as well as snippets of everyday life like getting the first shot and spilling bubble milk tea.
“I hope I can meet you all in person one day. I love you! “They told AFP, ending with a kiss. – AFP