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Avatar Company guns for ballooning virtual influencer market

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 21 May 2021
Television host Ayanda Thabethe’s digital twin, iYANDA.
Television host Ayanda Thabethe’s digital twin, iYANDA.

Johannesburg-based Avatar Company is readying to launch its third virtual influencer, as the digital start-up aggressively pushes its creations to get a share of the growing multimillion- rand industry.

Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), it creates computer-generated fictional characters, also known as virtual influencers, used on social media for marketing, and it pioneered SA’s virtual personality, Kim Zulu, last year.

Kim Zulu became SA’s first virtual influencer and has since attained global fame, as it has been profiled in Forbes US, Elle China and Fashion TV, and featured at the Mercedes-Benz Russia Fashion Week in 2020.

Now, Avatar Company says, it has a series of “innovative stealth projects” lined up for 2021 and beyond.

In an interview with ITWeb, Lebo Kambule, founder of the company, says: “We are currently rolling out a new character called Bass The DJ, who is a 21-year-old musician aiming to conquer the world with his music. We have a lot of exciting ideas around his character and we hope he receives the same reception Kim Zulu and iYANDA have received thus far.

“Our main objective has been to try and bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and actual human beings. We believe South Africa has everything it takes to be a world leader in virtual influencers. Africa generally has untold stories and this medium allows for stories to travel beyond borders.

“We have seen the opportunities around expanding and exploring more innovative ideas around artificial intelligence. The Avatar Company aims to explore music opportunities and film, and really expand our social media presence.”

Last year, the start-up partnered with television host Ayanda Thabethe to launch her digital twin, iYANDA.

“We believe in providing up-and-coming contributors a chance to participate in such exciting projects in the AI space. iYANDA’s launch has really fanned the virtual influencer fire in Africa,” says Kambule.

The Avatar Company’s strides in the virtual influencer market come at a time the trend is steadily gaining momentum in SA.

The influencer market has experienced explosive growth in recent months, as more local brands prioritise multi-channel social media influencer campaigns, fuelled by the exploding exodus to e-commerce.

Globally, the influencer market is a billion-dollar industry, with “some very ambitious predictions suggesting it could rise to $15 billion in the next couple of years”, according to global content marketing solutions firm, The Drum.