Magnum—the ice cream brand, not the condom—is releasing a Japanese matcha flavor in China. To promote it, Fred & Farid Shanghai orchestrated a brand collab with another Japanese import, Imma.
If you've never heard of Imma, but find her jarring to look at, that's expected: Imma's not real. Designed specifically to attract sponsorship, Imma lives what we only hope to approach on our best days.
Her social content isn't the best version of her; it is her, all of her.
Imma's world is beautifully designed and maximally controlled. Her style will always be on point, and she will never have cellulite. She will always be calm and reasonable. She will never have a racist rant, or get caught stumbling out of a club. And she won't get creative blocks, act like a diva, or desire something different from what is intended for her.
She will never err. Much of her perfection relies not just on her impeccable look but on her capacity to feel relatable while remaining aspirational. She reads beautiful coffee table books by Yoshi Rotten to "stimulate" her brain, moves house with help from Ikea, believes in LGBTQIA+ rights, and learned to cook in confinement.
Are you guys cooking for yourselves at home? I started cooking more when I was social distancing. They say you’ll be happier during the day if you eat breakfast🙌 Chef imma👨🍳👨🍳👨🍳 みんなお家でご飯作ってる？あたしはステイホームをきっかけに、今まで作ったことのなかったレシピにも挑戦するようになったよっ。朝ごはんを食べると幸福度が上がるんだって🙌 朝ごはんは抜かないでねっ！ シェフimmaより👨🍳👨🍳👨🍳 ＃あたしCGらしい ＃得意料理はまだないよ＃この家が好き＃IKEA原宿 #ithinkimcgi #nospecialityyet #happytobehome #IKEAharajuku
Her cooking post is a triumph of perfectionist realism. She looks like influencers we envied before they learned to disappoint us—immaculate, comfortably chic, but stunningly human. A secret smile sits on her face, and her hair, casually tied back, betrays just a kiss of "natural" roots. Her kitschy, slightly oversized apron features a smiling planet with the words "Save Our Home."
Yet in Magnum's work, she seems less real than in her social posts, sitting flush in the uncanny valley—that weird place where something that imperceptibly feels not-human looks nonetheless so much like us that it creates an itchy sensation of unease.
In a way, that feeling—so often shunned, avoided or feared in the past—makes her an ideal ambassador for Magnum's matcha flavor. The ice cream's chocolate shell, once broken, reveals an almost grassy green interior instead of standard chocolate or vanilla.
If matcha isn't part of your culture, it's a novelty, like Imma. But matcha is also familiar enough among Asians that many can vouch for its taste.
In this way, Magnum finds an acceptable pretext for our uncanny valley syndrome. We can conflate any odd feelings we have about Imma with the jarring appearance of green ice cream in a Magnum shell. And because a lot of Asians have tasted matcha-flavored candy before, they know they can grow past the strangeness of green ice cream … and, by sneaky extension, synthetic people.
Imma, crafted by virtual-human company Aww Inc., was one of the first-ever computer-generated influencers. The curious, but not necessarily negative, press surrounding her paved the way for others, giving marketers a means to work around the human risks inherent to collaborating with, well, brands that are human.
Virtual influencers apparently attract three times more engagement than real ones, and increasingly cross the barrier between what we consider fantasy and our shared digital "reality." In June last year, virtual musician Lil Miquela, who boasts 2.7 million Instagram followers, appeared in a Calvin Klein ad, kissing supermodel Bella Hadid.
We've finally made it to a world as depicted by Roger Rabbit! To mock the trend, KFC released a douchey virtual Colonel Sanders, young and muscular, with gray beach-swept hair and tattooed abs. The intention was to mock the virtual influencer trend; instead, or maybe because of that, a lot of people found the avatar hot. (In any event, he made a more positive splash than the brand's attempt to digitally revive the actual late Colonel Sanders.)
The uncertainty Covid brings is only likely to advance interest in synthetic brand collaborators. Never mind the messiness of human growth, which can't be planned for, and which often spirals out of PR control once the world catches wind. What better solution than virtual icons in a world where travel isn't so easily assured, and people can no longer approach each other with ease? There's no better time to create an entire fantasy economy, one where non-people can enjoy gorgeously appointed lives in our place.
Back to Imma. According to a pressie from Fred & Farid Shanghai, Imma is interested in Japanese culture, film and art, "which totally fits with the Magnum Ice Cream brand." Her name is a play on the Japanese word "ima," meaning "now." She also recently launched a TikTok channel.
Agency: Fred & Farid Shanghai
Client: Magnum Ice-Cream
Chief Creative Officers: Fred & Farid
Executive Creative Director: Feng Huang
Associate Creative Director: Jean-Baptiste Le Divelec
Copywriter: Sihan Jin
Art Director: Dagny Rozniak
Brand Strategists: Karen Ge, Si Liu
Agency Supervisor: Chelsea Lin, Sherry Zhang
Agency Producer: Tilda He
Client: Unilever / Magnum China
Vice President, Food & Refreshment North Asia: Benny Xu
Marketing Director: Terrence Wu
Senior Brand Manager: Aubrey Xu
Assistant Brand Manager: Min Lim
Assistant Brand Manager: Vicky Xu
Production: Nion Tokyo
CEO: Moriya Takayuki
Producers: Yumi An/ Yuna Hori/ Kosuke Onishi/ Lin Yin
Line Producer: Nobuki Ogawa
Print Producer: Shion Kimura
Director: Chris Rudz
Director of Photography: Andrzej Rudz
Photographer (Key Visual): Genki Ito
Photographer (Social Posters): Yusuke Kusaba
Art Director: Motty
Post-Production: Cutters studios
Editors: Luc-Yan Picker/ Ruri Abe
CGI artist: Ani-cafe
Credits (Magnum global footage):
Director: Martin Werner
D.O.P : Nicolaj Bruel
Production Company: Proppa
Executive Producer: Pablo Martínez
Art Director: Peter Grant/Pancho Chamorro
Wardrobe: Melanie Buchave/Lucia Lopez Spinola
Editor: Filip Malasek / Robota
Post House & Colorist: Bacon X