Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Aww: Super-realistic vHuman (virtual human) operation strategy and monetization model

 Recently, the Japanese ultra-realistic vHuman ( virtual human kind) Company Ltd. Aww Disney reached a cooperation with Japan. Aww will create a brand new vHuman "Ella" for Japan Disney through its self-developed vHuman production software MASTER MODEL™, which has officially logged on Instagram to start daily updates.

It is reported that Aww Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Aww Company) was founded in 2019 and is the first vHuman company in Japan. The company’s founder, Kojiki Kishimoto, is also the CEO of Modeling Cafe. The head of Aww, vHuman "imma" (295,000 Instagram followers), is also produced and opened by Modeling Cafe. According to public information, Aww completed its 100 million yen (approximately 6.38 million yuan) angel round of financing in September this year. The investor was Japanese VC company Coral Capital.

The company owns well-known vHuman such as "imma", "plusticboy" and "Ria", with over 1 million fans on all platforms. The company focuses on Asia and North America as its main markets. Brands such as KFC, SK-Ⅱ and Magnum have cooperated with them. At present, the company as a whole has entered the top vHuman company queue.

Compared with the current mainstream two-dimensional vTuber, vHuman, as its derived vertical branch, is currently relatively niche. However, its super-realistic and novel characteristics make vHuman highly match advertising endorsements, and can achieve stability through advertising Of realization. According to Takayuki Moriya, founder and CEO of Aww, the compatibility with advertising may make vHuman a brand-new endorsement choice in the future.

For a new virtual idol company, how to accumulate seed users in the early stage to consolidate the artist's fan base and how to efficiently monetize in the later stage are the two most critical issues. To this end, Dongxi Culture and Entertainment combined with Japanese media moguravr's interview with Moriya Takayuki in early October, and summarized Aww's operating model.

(Photo source Instagram@imma.gram)

Aww's business model

Around 2018, the recognition of the concept of virtual idols in the Japanese market has continued to increase. While the mainstream two-dimensional image vTuber is realized through song albums and concerts, the advertising industry and the fashion industry have also produced higher levels of virtual idols. Attention.

Moriya Takayuki, who has the foundation of 3DCG technology, has seen the demand of virtual idols in advertising monetization. In 2019, Aww was established, and based on CG technology, it created and operated Japan's first vHuman "imma" with commercial endorsement functions.

Pink bob head, exquisite facial features, and real-looking skin, these elements make imma have a clear difference from the second element vTuber at that time.

After accepting the concept of vHuman in the market, Aww uses its main business to carry out the systematic content creation and daily operation and maintenance of vHuman, and expand the outsourcing business MASTERMODEL business supported by self-developed engine technology, and AI technology, xR technology Two related business sectors in emerging areas.

After imma, Aww has successively launched three vHumans of "Ria", "plusticboy" and "Asu", and used the MASTER MODEL engine to create a variety of virtual digital fashions that simulate real materials, and integrate with 3DCG technology to become the fashion show New choice .

It is worth mentioning that the company stated in its public information in April this year that the company will increase its development and investment in emerging technologies in the future. Through AI technology, its vHuman will have an intelligent soul and exclusive voice, and it will achieve class through xR technology. Multi- scene interaction in the real world .

 Aww's vHuman's early user retention strategy

From the perspective of the retention of seed users in the early stage, as far as the current trend is concerned, the traditional ways of real-life artists’ ground-shop advertisements and new talent shows are poorly integrated with virtual idols.

The reason is that, on the one hand, the concept of virtual idols has not yet been widely popularized in the true sense. From the perspective of risk management and control, the brand side has a clear advantage for more systematic live artists. On the other hand, the world's leading virtual idol companies are still exploring a variety show model path for the purpose of publicity, and there is still no path to open up.

This is why it is difficult to promote in the initial stage, and it is difficult to choose the medium to reach the general users. In turn, it is difficult to form spontaneous Amway among fans, and it is difficult to generate community-based UGC creations. This has caused problems such as difficulty in retaining internal fans, slow or stagnant external expansion.

Aww cuts into the virtual idol industry from two angles on this issue.

1) Combination of the novelty of vHuman concept and high-tech threshold

As a brand new concept, hyper-realism is a very good selling point in itself. In the current market atmosphere where mainstream virtual idols are two-dimensional, it will arouse users' curiosity under aesthetic fatigue, and deepen the attention and memory of super-realistic characters.

In terms of technology, its higher threshold can screen out some companies to ensure the average quality of the market. Regarding the daily Instagram photo of vHuman under the Aww company, it adopts the mode of CG pinching face + live action to achieve true restoration through post synthesis.

2) Take the photo community Instagram as the first battlefield, and increase the promotion of emerging short video platforms such as TikTok

For Touch Media, according to public data, as of the end of 2019, Instagram accounted for 1.35% of the 3.5 billion global social media users, and its affiliated platform Facebook accounted for 74.17% of the market share as the number one. In other words, Instagram has enough user base.

From the perspective of user portraits, Instagram's user range is mainly 18-34 years old, accounting for 53% of the total users. This means that its users are mainly composed of millennials and young people in the Z era. Most of these user groups use daily selfies and scenic food photos as their main social means.

This type of users fits well with vHuman's target group. As a super-realistic virtual image, it has a texture that is close to that of a real person and is more recognizable, which can weaken the influence of cross-dimensionality and make fan excess more natural. At the same time, in terms of content operation, the graphic community has lower design difficulty and cost than live broadcast and long video delivery.

On the short video end, the CEO said in an interview that from the perspective of social platforms, short video platforms such as TikTok have been developing rapidly in recent years, and the ultra-realistic ones have a good compatibility with short video platforms.

Aww's advertising monetization strategy

The success of the vHuman concept depends on its commercialization achievements. According to observations, the main commercialization model of Aww Company is vHuman's advertising monetization.

Taking its imma as an example, it has been frequently exposed in the first and second quarters of this year’s Japanese financial report. The more well-known advertising endorsements include the cooperation with Menglong in April. As the spokesperson of Menglong in China, they filmed and launched TVCM; in August, with IKEA Cooperation, as the image spokesperson of Tokyo Harajuku IKEA (IKEA), has also cooperated with SK-Ⅱ, KFC and other major manufacturers before. In addition, he also appeared on the cover of fashion magazine GRAZIA as a top model.

It is not difficult to see that the choice of advertising endorsements is mainly based on direct consumer goods close to the consumption of young people. While meeting the audience, it did not go too far down the line, maintaining the overall image in a novel range. The vHuman avatar also has a sense of technology, which can continue to stimulate users' curiosity.

In addition to novelty, vHuman also has a cost advantage over live artists. Looking at the domestic environment, the price of celebrity endorsements is not determined by the market, but mainly determined by the brokerage company, which means that it is difficult for brands to have the right to bargain. From this perspective, vHuman often considers two aspects of initial market management and revenue, which will make the brand endorsement cost lower. It can be said that vHuman and the brand are a win-win situation.

It is noteworthy that, Aww company does not plan to develop sound music becomes the path of the current. Moriya said in an interview that at present, we still use human management and advertising to endorse the overall reputation of the operation. Considering the cost and quality of music content, we cannot guarantee that our products are significantly different from real people.

Moriya Takayuki, founder and CEO of Aww

Interviewer: moguravr editorial department

Interviewee: Takayuki Moriya, founder and CEO of Aww

Q1: What were the reasons and opportunities for choosing vHuman?

Moriya: First of all, I personally came from the image entertainment industry, and I mainly focus on CG production. Around 2012, the social media of Facebook and Twitter developed rapidly. The popular entertainment mode has shifted from TV to online social platforms. In 2018, the concept of vTuber was very hot, and mainstream vTuber was mostly in the two-dimensional and semi-cartoon image. Against this background, current COO Koshimoto and I conceived a super-realistic vTuber based on CG technology that is highly similar to real people, and called this special vTuber as vHuman.

In fact, the concept of "vHuman" or "virtual human" has been around for a long time, and I first encountered this concept in a PS4 game around 2015. At present, in addition to producing original virtual image IP similar to real people with the details and proportions of real people, our company also has the business of transforming real people into realistic virtual images.

Q2: From the company's perspective, what is vHuman's performance in monetization?

Moriya: Taking our company imma as an example, advertising endorsements are our main monetization channel as well as our PR channel. For example, the cosmetics brand "SKⅡ", the ice cream brand "Magnum", and the furniture brand "IKEA" are all our customers.

At the same time, I think the advantage of vHuman is its novelty compared to real person endorsements. The setting and story behind vHuman are very attractive. When the essence is the same as the real endorsement, that is, the basic logic of advertising monetization.

Q3: What activities does vHuman currently carry out?

Moriya: Whether it's imma, plusticboy or Ria, they are all active on graphic social platforms, with Instagram as the main platform. Upload life photos like real people, such as outdoor sports, food photos, landscape photos, etc. Of course, the selection and release of these photos are systematically planned and managed by a professional team.

At the same time, regarding this and advertising monetization, we don’t want our vHuman to become a tool for advertising monetization, and we want their fans to feel that vHuman is truly alive, so we keep every daily submission without a sense of enterprise. concentrated. Taking imma as an example, she has a real personality, "do what she likes" and "do what she doesn't like". In other words, we design and control the human set clearly.

Q4: What will vHuman do in the future?

Moriya: The current vTuber can be divided into two categories: two-dimensional and surreal, depending on the type. For example, the two-dimensional may be more suitable for live broadcast, and the super-realistic one is more suitable. Endorsement. Judging from the current trend, the second dimension is definitely still the mainstream.

But from the perspective of social platforms, you can see the rapid development of short video platforms such as TikTok in recent years, and the ultra-realistic ones are more compatible with short video platforms. vHuman may become the mainstream in the future.

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