UM Studios & Ensemble Worldwide bring to life SEA’s first virtual influencer

UM Studios & Ensemble Worldwide, the creative unit under IPG Mediabrands has created the first virtual influencer that aims to represent Southeast Asia as a region.

Amit Sutha, Chief Executive Officer of UM Studios & Ensemble Worldwide said, “As an agency, we’ve always been interested in the idea of creating a virtual influencer. When the prospect of an influencer-based campaign presented itself with PUMA, we jumped at the opportunity. Research told us that it was impossible for any single influencer to cut across the entire Southeast Asian (SEA) region, so the team decided to “give birth” to one with the help of our multiple partners.”

The agency team supported by So.Min a social media artificial intelligence platform, mapped millions of Southeast Asian faces from multiple online sources including a user generated process via Instagram. This allowed the rendering of several face versions, the first building block to creating a virtual person.

Subsequently, multiple 3D versioning techniques were used to construct an entity that could be used across a wide range of mediums. Partnering with Intuitive Ideas, a 3D innovation company, a face model was created with multiple drafted expressions. 3D production houses, Graph Studios and Fly Studios were then involved to develop different processes to cater to motion graphics and agile production of multiple assets.

Amit said, “Creating a new virtual persona was a completely new journey for us, so it was a learning process every step of the way. We crowd sourced features for Maya’s face, while simultaneously rendering it. This was a challenge, but a completely exciting process. Her personality also has a complex number of layers and was developed using AI technology, with her story completely evolving in real-time.”

Maya’s personality was created using multiple innovative techniques. Her baseline persona was developed through proprietary UM Studio wave studies on Southeast Asian psychographics. This personality evolves with time as her interests are taken from social listening and AI curation of the content generated by her interactions.

Amit said, “Maya is an influencer at heart. She is relatable to consumers because her followers have had a first-hand look at her life from conception. Her story is also carefully constructed to cater towards the Southeast Asian audience, meaning the emotional connection they have with her is on a much deeper level than with other influencers.”

A proud PUMA ambassador, Maya is currently promoting PUMA’s Future Rider sneakers. As a virtual influencer who portrays Southeast Asian values, it is possible for her to get involved with other brands should they align with her values.

“We are seeing a high level of engagement with Maya, even in these nascent weeks and more plans are in the pipeline for her character as she continues to make friends across the region. Interestingly, people are wondering if she is real, and there have even been a few romantic interests. The name Maya has multiple meanings, most significantly ‘virtual beauty’, and she is a representation of everything we love about being Southeast Asian. She plans to show the world the beauty of this region,” adds Amit.

Follow Maya here:

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