China: Virtual humans popular in advertising

BEIJING  – Virtual humans are digital representations of human-like characters that can interact with real people through various media platforms. They can be used for various purposes, such as entertainment, education, socialization, and marketing. In recent years, virtual humans have become more popular and realistic, thanks to the advances in artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and natural language processing.

One of the markets that has embraced virtual humans is China, where consumers are increasingly exposed to and influenced by these digital agents. According to a report by iResearch, the market size of virtual humans in China reached 1.5 billion yuan (about 232 million US dollars) in 2020, and is expected to grow to 10.9 billion yuan (about 1.7 billion US dollars) by 2024. The report also found that 72% of Chinese consumers have interacted with virtual humans in some way, and 62% of them have a positive attitude towards them.

One of the main applications of virtual humans in China is advertising, where they can be used to promote products or services, create brand awareness, and enhance customer loyalty. Some examples of virtual human advertising campaigns in China are:

– KFC’s virtual spokesperson Dumi, who is a cute and lively girl that can chat with customers, recommend menu items, and share coupons on social media platforms such as WeChat and Douyin (TikTok).

– L’Oréal’s virtual influencer Mr. Ou, who is a handsome and fashionable man that can showcase different hairstyles and products, and interact with fans on platforms such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book).

– Huawei’s virtual idol Yunshen, who is a talented and charismatic singer that can perform songs, dance moves, and special effects, and collaborate with real celebrities on platforms such as Bilibili and Kuaishou.

These virtual human advertising campaigns have achieved impressive results in terms of reach, engagement, conversion, and retention. For instance, Dumi has attracted more than 60 million followers on WeChat and Douyin, and generated more than 200 million yuan (about 31 million US dollars) in sales for KFC in 2020. Mr. Ou has gained more than 1.4 million fans on Weibo and Xiaohongshu, and increased the sales of L’Oréal’s hair products by 28% in 2020. Yunshen has amassed more than 2 million fans on Bilibili and Kuaishou, and boosted the sales of Huawei’s smartphones by 15% in 2020.

The reasons why Chinese consumers are adopting very fast to virtual humans in advertising are manifold. Some of them are:

– Virtual humans can provide personalized and interactive experiences for consumers, such as giving recommendations, answering questions, offering feedback, and expressing emotions.

– Virtual humans can create novel and immersive scenarios for consumers, such as performing live shows, hosting events, and joining games.

– Virtual humans can appeal to different consumer segments, such as young people, female users, niche markets, and fan communities.

– Virtual humans can leverage the power of social media platforms, such as generating viral content, building fan bases, and influencing purchase decisions.

In conclusion, virtual humans are becoming a new trend and a new force in the advertising industry in China. They can offer unique advantages over traditional human spokespersons or influencers, such as lower cost, higher scalability, greater flexibility, and longer lifespan. They can also create new opportunities and challenges for advertisers, such as enhancing creativity, improving efficiency, increasing loyalty, and managing risks. (zi)