Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Strategy, Marketing, and Innovation

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Ali Selcuk Can and Professor Yuksel Ekinci.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £2,000 towards fieldwork. In addition, the Faculty supports conference costs with a contribution of £550 and training costs with a contribution of £450.

The work on this project could involve:

  • A systematic literature review on MetaHumans and brand engagement,
  • Developing a suitable research design with experimental methods,
  • Providing recommendations about how MetaHumans can ensure higher brand engagement,
  • A potential interdisciplinary collaboration with the University of Portsmouth’s Creative Technologies subject group.

Nowadays, brand managers face challenges on providing distinct, memorable, and personalized experiences for better customer engagement. In doing so, brands have started to use Virtual Influencers/ MetaHumans. MetaHumans refer to high quality 3D digital human character created on the Internet and/or Metaverse (Kimani, Bray & Gadney, 2022). Artificial intelligence enables Metahumans speak different languages to deliver global brand messages across different geographical locations, make sense of the world through narratives and stories. Virtual Influencers/Metahumans have personality traits that act consistently to promote brands on social media platforms. For example, Lu do Magalu (@maqazineliiz) with its 5.9 million followers is the most followed Virtual Influencer on Instagram ( Hence, utilizing digital humans can provide new and creative ways of grabbing customer attention in social media.

As Virtual Influencers/Metahumans can have potentials in delivering brand messages, this research project should focus on how Virtual Influencers/MetaHumans can enhance customer engagement with brands in social media, in Metaverse and/or across different cultures. Accordingly, the research proposal should introduce a conceptual framework and a suitable methodology (i.e. experimental research) to investigate the relationship between Virtual Influencers/Metahumans and brand engagement.


  • Cube (2022), “Are metahumans transforming the future of marketing?”. 04 17, 2022 available at: (accessed 17 July 2022).
  • Dionisio, J. D. N., Burns III,W. G., and Gilbert, R. 2013. 3D virtual worlds and the Metaverse: Current status and future possibilities. ACM Computing Surveys, 45(3), Article 34 (June 2013), 38 pages.
  • Dwivedi, Y., Hughes, L., Baabdullah, A.M., et al. (2022). Metaverse beyond the hype: Multidisciplinary perspectives on emerging challenges, opportunities, and agenda for research, practice and policy. International Journal of Information Management, 66, 102542.
  • Hollensen, S., Kotler, P., & Opresnik, M.O. (2022). Metaverse- the new marketing universe. Journal of Business Strategy,
  • Kimani, R., Bray, V., & Gadney, G. (2022). The rise of the metahumans: Imagination made real. The Chartered Institute of Marketing viva
  • Virtual Humans <> Accessed July, 17, 2022.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We would encourage applications from those who have an interest in marketing through digital technology. Candidates should have some knowledge of quantitative research methods, specifically, a knowledge of experimental research would be appreciated. Candidates without such experience should be willing to develop their skills in this area as part of the project.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Ali Selcuk Can ( or Prof. Yuksel Ekinci to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SM&I8100423 when applying and submit all required documentation.