The role of a virtual influencer’s friend on endorsement success

  • Catarina Sofia Sousa Reis (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Virtual influencers exist at the intersection of influencer marketing and the use of AI and CGI technology, and they are becoming increasingly popular on social media. Indeed, more and more brands are collaborating with multiple Virtual influencers or, simultaneously, pairing them with human influencers for sponsored Instagram content. Building upon research on human-robot interactions and influencer endorsement effectiveness, this paper explores how the type of virtual influencer’s friends displayed in Instagram posts can impact consumer outcomes, specifically, attitude towards advertisement, attitude towards brand, and purchase intent. Parallelly, this study investigates to what extent perceived eeriness, credibility, and social psychological distance of the virtual influencer can mediate the relationship between the virtual influencer’s friend type and the consumer outcomes. Accordingly, a single factor between participants' experiment (virtual influencer with a virtual influencer friend vs. virtual influencer with a human influencer friend) was conducted, in which 143 Portuguese consumers where exposed, randomly and through a survey, to one of two manipulated Instagram posts. The results overall showed higher endorsement effectiveness for the virtual influencer with the human influencer friend, in comparison to two virtual influencers. Moreover, the virtual influencer with the human influencer friend was evaluated as more credible, and less eerie and socially distant. Regarding consumer outcomes, they were only mediated by credibility. Taken together, these findings contribute to the extant literature by exposing credibility as a driver of positive responses towards endorsements of virtual influencers, providing managerial guidance as well.
Date of Award14 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorSusana Silva (Supervisor) & Roberta De Cicco (Co-Supervisor)


  • Virtual influencers
  • Brand endorsement
  • Experiments


  • Mestrado em Gestão

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