Monday, July 16, 2018

Will Avatar Supermodels Replace Human Models, Bloggers and Influencers?

Break-out models are few and far between, the product of extraordinary genes, top level career management, and let’s face it, luck and timing.  The competition is stiff and the rules of the game change constantly, so when a model actually does rise to the top and become a star, it is a result of so much more that just her looks.  Social media has made models out of people that would never conform to traditional “model standards”, which is in fact very democratic and more representative of society as a whole, resulting in campaigns and collaborations that were normally reserved first for supermodels and then celebrities.  

And just when you think the competition can’t get any more intense, millions of people flock to follow influencers that are completely computer-generated digital creations such as South African beauty Shudu, and Lil Miquela.  These “supermodels” have followers in the millions on Instagram and influence that brands clamor for, to reach their target audiences in new ways.  Designers create digital files of their designs which are then applied to these avatars, and animated to show movement. Beauty companies like Fenty Beauty by Rihana launch new collections on these avatars, and brands line up to pay for sponsored posts with these “models’.  So what does this mean for the future of human modeling, not to mention bloggers and influencers, in the fashion and beauty industries?  Is traditional modeling doomed?  Are bloggers no longer going to be human or share actual human experience?

I am not a fortune teller but I do have some thoughts and reflections that lead me to think that the future is not that bleak for up and coming models and influencers.  Only a few short years ago models faced the threat of “non-models” with impressive followings on social media being offered contracts with agencies, competing with them for modeling jobs.  Clients routinely ask for a model’s social media numbers in the casting process now to see which models are having  an impact.  It is almost as if the public now has an influence on model selection as if the client has asked them “who do you want to see in our clothing, or makeup? Who represents our brand to you?” Rather than fade out of the scene, models have learned to adapt and develop a persona beyond their portfolio, creating their own sort of “celebrity” following.  Designers still need actual models to strut the runway several times a year, and while a few editorials featuring these avatars have appeared in magazines, it is incredibly time consuming and very expensive to produce such an editorial, meaning it is still a novelty.  Clothing and accessories brands that have four or more collections a year cannot afford the time or expense produce their advertising with avatars, the exception being that several large brands and department stores are using computer generated “models” for e-commerce.  If anything, the models are noticing a reduction in fees for these sort of jobs rather than being cut from the equation all together.  Powerhouse fashion brands regularly play with digital manipulation and creation in their advertising trying to separate themselves from other brands, but for the most part at the core of a campaign is still a recognizable celebrity or supermodel. 

So is this the end of traditional modeling?  Are bloggers and influencers seeing their careers fall apart?  I think that would mean that the audience and customers of the fashion and beauty industries don’t care for authenticity, that they don’t need to see themselves represented in advertising and on social media, and that the natural human world isn’t good enough so it needs to be replaced with something completely invented and artificial.  People aren’t going to believe an endorsement of a brand by an avatar.  Just as technology scrambles to fool our eyes such as with digital movies with actors working alone against a green screen, it is a huge undertaking to constantly re-imagine the visual landscape, to create ever-changing avatars and build “lives” to support these creations.  

The need for models and human influencers will adapt to the new playing field, and avatars will find their place in the social media world.  Consumers will let brands know that while it might be a novelty now to look at these avatars with wonder, they are aware that they are simply characters and they, the audience, are being invited to follow the “story” just as they would a character in the film.  Real human experience and reflection will still sell more product, and for that we will still need living, breathing models and influencers.  

We will always remember the supermodels, iconic images by legendary photographers, and standout magazine covers and editorials.  Would we follow so closely the amazing careers of models like Gisele Bundchen if we knew we were looking at an avatar who didn’t age, rather than a gorgeous young girl who burst onto the fashion scene and grew and aged along with the rest of us, through marriage, kids, business endeavors, and acts of charity, all while continuing to shine and move, and laugh, and sell products?  No, we would have lost interest years ago.  So keep following the relatable human models, seek out new faces that deserve a follow and likes, champion those influencers who share your personal style or outlook on life, and file avatars along with other curiosities of social media: check them out and be impressed by the artists who created them, not by the avatars themselves.  There are so many amazing actual human beings in this industry doing incredible things that are unique and the product of real, human endeavor.  Models and bloggers included.  

                                                       XOXO Shelley

#avatarsreplacingmodels #avatarinfluences #Shudu #LilMiquela #socialmediainfluencers #avatarsinadvertising #modelsversusavatars #businessofmodeling #businessofblogging #ShelleyGoodstein 

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