Virtual identities are connecting ageing brands with younger audiences: dentsu’s Jamie McConville

For a virtual identity to work the brand must decide what its true purpose is.


Mumbai: In a presentation at the MGEN Summit, which was organised by Animation Xpress and explored the areas of the metaverse, games, esports, and NFT, densu's director of global solutions Jamie McConville noted that virtual identities are connecting ageing brands with younger audiences. Virtual identities enable brands to show up in unexpected places. But for a virtual identity to work, the brand must decide what its true purpose is. Otherwise, it will remain a novelty. It is important for virtual identities to be authentic and truthful.

She noted that individuals have had virtual identities for a long time. "It is something that we use without thinking about it. However, for business, it has been a bit of a slow journey." She noted that only recently have businesses started to take virtual identities more seriously. "Now is the time for businesses to get started. But you have to remember that the people you are talking to are veterans in this space." She added that there is a huge opportunity for brands to get more personal in terms of how they express themselves digitally. Right now, brands present themselves as the same, and there is not much personality to them in the digital world. Often, it is just a logo.

"There is more of an authentic way in terms of how brands can talk to audiences. Through a virtual identity, there is a great opportunity for brands to personify themselves, and they can be a human brand everywhere they are. That doesn't mean they have to be the same everywhere they go."

Virtual identities are one tool that can be used. She gave the example of luxury brands and financial products that use it. This helps ageing brands in these categories connect with younger audiences. In South Korea, Shinhan Insurance uses "Rozy," a virtual influencer. The aim is to appeal to gen-z. Another issue is that brands show up on social media in a predictable manner. They also tend to be risk averse. A brand, by definition, should be unique. Again, virtual identities give brands new ways to do that and allow them to show up in unexpected ways. For instance, the American fast food chain Wendy's teamed up with Fortnite for a game called Food Fight. They went inside the game and attacked Team Burger's freezers. This went viral. It was both fun and authentic, as Wendy's does not do frozen beef. They were not trying to force it.

She also noted that virtual identities are allowing brands to create delightful automated experiences. Virtual identities are also allowing brands to invest in their own character IP. Unicharm in Japan, after years of depending on Disney IP, decided to invest in its own property, Moony Chan, and build it as a character in itself. She also mentioned how virtual identities help to establish characters that are relevant to all local audiences.

She also noted that strategy comes first. Brands need to decide the purpose of the virtual identity. Why are they doing it? Otherwise, it is just a novelty. The brand has to next think about what its star power is. Why should people care about a brand's virtual identity? Why should people want to interact with a brand's virtual identity? Don't fall into gimmicks. Brands must develop personality and characteristics that strengthen the virtual identity. It is also important to ideate at speed.

The way in which a brand can express their virtual identity can take various forms, she noted. There is no right or wrong here. It depends on the audience that the virtual identity is talking to and the message that it is delivering. She also mentioned watchouts. The first point made was that virtual identities often have real people behind them. She gave the example of Capitol Records dropping AI rapper FN Meka from the label after a backlash over cultural appropriation and gross stereotypes. The founders and creators of FN Meka were not black, which led to a row. Also, the rapper's voice was done by a black artist who got no money or credit for doing so. "Brands can get cancelled for things like this," she cautioned.

The second warning was brands trying to be too realistic. Being realistic is not necessarily a bad thing, but being too realistic can lead to the virtual identity falling into an uncanny valley. This refers to a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being. Unfortunately, this arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. "If people see it as being too real and not quite human, they cannot handle it."

Conversations that do not fit are the third thing brands should avoid when developing virtual identities. Virtual identities cannot handle some things. "They can handle some conversations. There are some who cannot. Yes, it is a virtual identity, but you still have real impact and real responsibilities."

Latest Reads

Sports sector receives its highest-ever budget allocation in history with an over 300 cr jump

Mumbai: The sports sector has received its highest-ever budget allocation in history. With an over Rs 300 crore jump, the sports sector has received Rs 3,397.32 crore allocation in the new FY 2023-24 Union Budget. The union finance minister presented the budget for 2023-24 at the parliament on 1...

iWorld Over The Top Services
Ormax Media launches annual all access plan called ‘Super Subscription’

Ormax Media, a media analytics company, has announced the launch of its annual all-access plan called ‘Super Subscription.’ The plan will allow Ormax Media’s business partners full access to all industry reports, data and trends.

iWorld Over The Top Services
‘Frasier’ reboot starts production with Kelsey Grammar

OTT platform Paramount+ has announced that the series Frasier, starring and executive produced by Kelsey Grammer, starts production this week.

iWorld Over The Top Services
MX Player’s Abhishek Joshi quits

MX Player SVoD (subscription business) & business partnerships SVP & business head Abhishek Joshi has reportedly resigned.

iWorld Over The Top Services
Trai seeks comments on its consultation paper on regulating converged digital technologies and services

Mumbai: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday issued the consultation paper on "regulating converged digital technologies and services -enabling the convergence of carriage of broadcasting and telecommunication services." Over the period of time, various technological...

iWorld Telecom
Potential of WPL to garner a scalable viewership is an uphill task: Elara Capital

Mumbai: The BCCI has raked in Rs 4,669.99 crore from franchise bidders for the Women’s Premier League. Adani Sportsline forked out the most amount at Rs 1,289 crore. Three of the winning bidders also own IPL franchises - Royal Challengers Sports (owners of Royal Challengers Bangalore), JSW GMR...

iWorld Over The Top Services
Natak Pictures brings new web series ‘UNSORTED’ on Disney+Hotstar

Mumbai: Natak Pictures explores the emotional conflicts faced by today’s modern generation that constantly juggles between personal and professional life, with the release of its web show UNSORTED. The leading film studio premiered the web show on Disney+Hotstar on 27 January 2023 and is receiving...

iWorld Over The Top Services
Playflix to showcase Korean shown in regional languages

Mumbai: One Take Media Co’s OTT platform Playflix is on a roll, bringing blockbuster Korean shows back-to-back. OTMC’s Playflix app is now taking it a step further with regionalising its K-dramas. Playflix will now extend Korean dramas dubbed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

iWorld Over The Top Services
Black White Orange appointed as exclusive licensing agent for Netflix India and South Asia

Mumbai: Black White Orange, one of India’s brand licensing & consulting agencies, has been chosen as Netflix’s exclusive licensing and merchandising agent in India and South Asia. Under the agreement, Black White Orange will manage brand consulting & licensing for Netflix’s expansive show...

iWorld Over The Top Services