Noonoouri: Virtual Influencer and Ambassador in the Metaverse

By Martin Haase

With 407,000 followers, Noonoouri is Germany's most successful virtual influencer.
Images: Jörg Zuber Studio GmbH

Goggle eyes, snub nose and sensational clothing: That's Noonoouri, digital model and Germany's most successful virtual influencer. Munich-based designer Jörg Zuber created the character in 2018 years ago. His next goal: bringing Noonoouri to the Metaverse.

Jörg Zuber works where others relax after work. The 42-year-old's design studio is located directly at Munich's Gärtnerplatz, a scene hotspot in the Glockenbach district. You enter his office through a backyard; no conspicuous lettering of his joerg zuber studio GmbH shines in the entrance area. You look directly into the faces of his employees; only two of the six seats are occupied this morning. For Zuber, work location and time are irrelevant: His employees should work where they can be creative.

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Creativity is in demand in the design studio. Because this is where Germany's most successful virtual influencer is created. Eight of the 18 employees work full-time on Zuber's creation Noonoouri, who is present not only on Instagram but also on the covers of international fashion magazines. The digital character is under contract with the model agency IMG, alongside top international stars such as Heidi Klum, Gigi Hadid and Kate Moss. On Instagram, Noonoouri presents virtual collections of luxury brands such as Dior or Gucci to her more than 407,000 followers at events such as the MET Gala. Not only that: Noonoouri can be seen in pictures next to stars like Lewis Hamilton, Beyoncé or Bella Hadid. Fashion stars like Naomi Campbell or Marc Jacobs follow her Instagram account. For Noonoouri as a fashion influencer, this is a valuable fan base. Because of it, Zuber was able to show cooperation partners the new marketing opportunities opened up by virtual influencers.

»The technology is developing rapidly. In a few years, animated characters in movies and games will be indistinguishable from real people.«

Jörg Zuber, creator of Noonoouri

Photo: Sebastian Arlt

Noonoouri: Virtual Influencer as a Flexible Marketing Tool

Zuber sees a major strength of Noonoouri in the fact that she can be in several places at once. A human model could not possibly attend a film festival in New York and a product launch in Singapore on the same day. Zuber only requires one photographer to provide him with the right image - and the designer brings Noonoouri into the picture. The downside: It takes time. Days pass before Noonoouri actually appears in a snapshot. The image of Noonoouri herself has to be ready beforehand in order for her to be live at an event: Zuber and his team need three to four days for a picture on Instagram, while an animation can take two weeks or longer. More elaborate productions - for example open blowing hair and dynamic backgrounds such as falling leaves - can take up to eight weeks.

Other than this, there are no boundaries for Noonoouri. "The sky is the limit!" says Zuber. "She can sit on top of the Empire State Building, do an underwater fashion show, or perform a song on the circles of Jupiter." That's not only eye-catching, he says, but also exciting for Generation Z - and brands that want to reach a young demographic. Zuber explains, "Noonoouri appeals to young people who grew up with gaming or social media. This generation experiments in digital worlds, among other things with their identity: sometimes they can be a musclehead, sometimes they can assume a different gender."

Jörg Zuber: "Noonoouri is a cosmopolitan"

Those who want to depict diversity can do so with Noonoouri: she displays how it is possible to take on a completely different role and thus develop an understanding for other points of view. Moreover, she has no nationality, "she is a cosmopolitan," states Zuber. Her changeability is an advantage over human influencers, he says. At the same time, she has a consistent personality. An important factor, since brands can only communicate values through authentic partners.

Noonoouri's Instagram channel also focuses on activism: She potrays herself as part of the LGBTQ+ movement, campaigns for sustainability and animal welfare, and criticizes discrimination and racism. To show this, Zuber has his digital figure swim in a sea of plastic waste, stages it together with endangered animal species, or dresses her in a sweater with "Black Lives Matter" written on it.

Zuber was never concerned with a long-term marketing strategy for Noonoouri. The designer emphasizes that she is not simply an alter ego of himself, she speaks for herself. Her character, with a passion for fashion and beauty and an awareness of social issues, has grown with him, he claims. "That's why Noonoouri today is authentic, strong and appears self-confident," Zuber is certain.

Natural posture thanks to Motion Capture Suite

Today, Noonoouri is no longer created on drawing paper, but with modern technology. A motion capture suite captures a natural posture: like in Hollywood animated films, an employee puts on the full-body suit, which transmits the human posture to a computer model via numerous sensors. A face-tracking system ensures natural facial expressions; here, sensors glued to the face transmit movements to a 3-D model. There is still some fine-tuning to be done, but: "The technology is developing rapidly. In a few years, animated figures in movies and games will be indistinguishable from real people", Zuber is certain.

Realistic animation is not an option for Noonoouri: "The digital should support the physical, the human being comes first", the designer emphasizes. Zuber cites the campaign with Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton as an example of this. For Tommy Hilfiger, the racing driver and Noonoouri posed together in front of the lens with the same outfit.The digital influencer generates even more attention for the message that is to be conveyed by a picture - and in this case for the Tommy Hilfiger brand and the vegan fashion collection that Hamilton is presenting. Because Noonoouri causes astonishment next to a real person in a picture. A desired effect: viewers get stuck, recognize the real person and want to know how the image with the digital influencer came about.

Just like her human colleagues, Noonoouri continues to develop. And she has goals: In the future, she plans to experiment with new topics. According to Zuber, she may for example recommend music or review games. The big vision Zuber has concerning Noonoouri is the step into the metaverse.

Cooperation possibilities in the metaverse

Zuber can imagine creating a virtual room for Noonoouri where users can meet her at certain times. There she might talk to fans about new games, show new fashion or present albums. This would open up countless opportunities for collaboration. For the designer, the step into the metaverse is only logical; after all, Noonoouri belongs in the digital space. For fashion collections in particular, there is a decisive advantage: "The fashion industry is very controversial when it comes to sustainability. Even if cotton, for example, is produced ecologically - that says nothing about the further processing. What's more, most of it is thrown away. In the Metaverse, clothing can first be seen and purchased digitally, before being produced on demand. That saves resources and reduces environmental impact."

NFTs are also a theme, with everything from Profile Picture Drop to Noonoouri avatars being possible. Zuber strives to be avant-garde with his creation and to show what is possible - not just chase after trends. Even if Noonoouri achieves resounding success in the metaverse in the future and there are many imitators: "Digital figures or avatars will not replace influencers." According to Zuber, it's basically about diversifying the approach: "There are people who are reached by people. And there are other people who are reached through digital avatars." This is a similar principle to print and online products, he says, each of which addresses different target groups. For the 42-year-old, the message is more important than the messenger.