A virtual influencer and promotion model for the Korean Tourism Organization, Lizzie Yeo, has been criticised for her close likeness to Red Velvet’s Irene, according to allkpop. Since July, Yeo has been in several promotional content for South Korean tourism. Yeo then started to receive attention for her odd likeness to popular female celebrities, including Irene and singer/actress Kwon Nara.
The Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee also criticised the virtual character. One committee member compared a photo of Yeo side by side with the star and said: “The one on the left side is Yeo and the one on the right side is Irene. They look the same. There are serious concerns over one’s portrait rights here.”
The character was apparently created with features which were deemed as popular among the MZ generations. The Korea Tourism Organization created the virtual character to act as its honorary ambassador. It cost approximately US$557,000 to produce Yeo. On the Korean Tourism Organization’s website, Yeo is “the world’s first virtual traveller that visits all over Korea every day to find beautiful hidden sceneries.”
In South Korea, there are approximately 150 virtual humans. These virtual humans have starred in commercials and music videos and now even being acting as honorary ambassadors.
Rise of virtual influencer
Virtual influencers are not new to the marketing and advertising industry, with brands from F&B to the fashion industries leveraging them to engage audiences. The past few years have seen a rise in virtual influencers from Lil Miquela and Shudu to Margot and Zhi, but how do they fare among consumers compared to their human counterparts?
A Milieu survey conducted last December in Southeast Asia with 1,000 respondents each from six countries showed that trust still needs to be built with virtual influencers.
Only 12% of respondents across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam think they are more credible than human influencers, while 31% think that they are less credible than the latter.
In Singapore, 50% of respondents think virtual influencers are less credible than their human counterparts, while 30% and 22% of Malaysians and Indonesians think the same. Meanwhile, 47% of Indonesians and 39% of Malaysians think virtual influencers are as credible as human influencers. This was only the case for 22% of Singaporeans. Fashion, games, technology, and movies/music suitable to be promoted using virtual influencers.
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Korea Tourism Organisation reaches out to planners