Major brands are beginning to experiment with computer-generated, ‘virtual’ influencers as a means of promoting their products on social media platforms.

Influencer marketing has become a powerful tool for helping brands to reach digital audiences, particularly when targeting younger groups. Globally, the industry is predicted to reach a value of up to $10bn in 2020, according to data from MediaKix.

However, recent incidents have raised questions about the reliability of influencers as brand spokespeople. Swedish star Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg, the world’s most popular vlogger, was dropped from YouTube’s ad platform after featuring anti-Semitic imagery in a number of his videos. Fellow YouTuber Logan Paul, meanwhile, caused outrage with footage of a suicide victim on a trip to Japan.

Brands have devised processes to minimise the risk associated with influencer partnerships, from more careful vetting of individuals to implementing contracts that more clearly spell out expectations of influencer conduct. Yet there will always remain limits to the effectiveness of such methods: people are liable to err, and influencers – whatever the digital platform – will always hold an element of sway over content creation and artistic direction.