I went to the Ad Council annual dinner last night. Among the featured campaigns was “I Am A Witness,” a public service effort that launched last week to combat online bullying. October was National Bullying Prevention Month so the coalition of Adobe*, The Bully Project and Behance came up with a clever campaign featuring an emoji, an eyeball within a speech bubble. Two statistics on bullying stand out: 90 percent of teens have witnessed some form of online cruelty and one-third reported seeing mean behavior frequently. Research also shows that 60 percent of bullying will stop in 10 seconds if somebody intervenes. The Goodby Silverstein team that came up with the emoji talked with trade media about the “symbolic significance of a watchful gaze… it says I see this and I am speaking up.”
Meanwhile, the Edelman New York office last week unveiled the Dove Love Your Curls Emojis. With no curly hair emojis available, the Unilever marketers worked with Snaps, an emoji creative shop, to build a keyboard with ladies of all skin and hair colors, a total of 131 curly emoji variations, with seven animated GIFs. Our media hook was that 80 percent of women with curly hair feel existing emojis underrepresent their hair type and that the one in three women in the U.S. with curly hair should take pride in their curls. Christina Gibson of Edelman said, “Women like using emojis because they are more than words. The visuals add color and fun.” Thus far 434,000 people have downloaded the Dove Love Your Curls Emoji app. The campaign led to massive publicity on America This Morning, The Huffington Post, Mashable, Essence, Cosmopolitan and Yahoo Beauty.
I spoke this morning with Mark Davis, who leads the non-profit Unicode Consortium, a group that The New York Times refers to as “the midwife to new emojis.” New emojis are put to a vote at the annual meeting in the spring. Representatives of Apple, Facebook, Adobe, Google, Microsoft and others decide which ones are most worthy (among those up for vote, according to a recent article in The New York Times, are a shark, a clown, an avocado and pregnant woman). In November, 2014, the Consortium decided to add racially diverse emoji; two years before, same sex couples were recognized in emoji.
So why bother with emojis? According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion people will be using mobile messaging apps in 2015. Asia Pacific has 58 percent of the world’s messaging app population, which makes sense given that Japan was the front of the emoji revolution. The millennial spends 41 percent of media time on mobile devices, including 30 hours a month on social apps out of a total of 91 hours on mobile apps. Half of the American adult internet users have used emojis on social media or in text messages. Half of the comments or captions on Instagram contain emojis. A survey in the UK found that eight of ten use symbols or icons to communicate; 18-25 year old Brits find it easier to put their feelings across using emojis instead of words, according to The Guardian. Some companies such as Dominos are using emojis for commerce; you can order a pizza by tweeting a pizza emoji.
“What we are seeing is the emergence of a new language, post alpha-numeric. It is a fascinating opportunity,” said Greg Welch of Intel. This is an area that PR firms need to jump into with both feet. We should push clients toward mobile content creation, with emojis making it fun, easily shareable and visual.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.
Image by Ad Council.