Friday, July 10, 2015

This could be a brilliant idea. But I'm not sure because I don't speak emoji.

New from the Partnership for a Drug-free America, this campaign targeting high school students attempts to speak to them in their own language.  What an interesting idea.

The messaging also appears to be kid savvy focusing on individual choice -- "drugs are not for me," and support -- "if you slip up, try again tomorrow."

This one says "I want to fit in, but I don't want to smoke."

In addition to the very colorful billboards -- one in Times Square even -- the campaign includes print, cinema and mobile components.  As you might expect, teens are encouraged to create and share their own messages on the mobilesite  (Richards, 2015)

So what do you think?  Will this campaign be successful?  Is the use of emojis a good idea or just a gimmick?  And what about the message itself -- persuasive or not?

Richards, K. (2015, July 9)  You need to Speak Emoji to Understand This Anti-Drug Campaign.   Retrieved July 10, 2015, from


  1. I just don't get it ... Maybe someone that uses this language in everyday texting would fare better but when I see thisI may try to decode what the hell they are saying but I'd probably drop out in a minute.

    Maybe if they made it a little more fun/interactive on a screen instead of a billboard with a "Can you guess the message?" type of theme it make hold some people's attention a bit longer.

    That being said there is some thought behind speaking to teens in a language that they use but this my be better suited to a lighter form of advertising and not for a subject as serious as drug abuse and addiction.

    Found another example of Chevrolet announcing a new car launch in an all-emoji Press Release ( I thought this was an innovative step because Media outlets and agencies are flooded with Press releases on a daily basis and this may have helped them break through the clutter. Plus the burden of translating the message is on the Media Outlet and not the viewer/consumer.

    - Yuvraj

  2. I am a millenial who uses emojis in texting conversations often but at first glance, and even after reading how it translated and then looking back, I could not decipher that sentence of emojis! I believe that eomjis are very popular nowadays but the icons are not being used exclusively. They are usually tacked onto a statement or in those rare instance that they are used individually, they are meant to express some kind of emotion. Using them to represent verbs, nouns, and punctuations seems odd...

    I do not believe that this will be a successful campaign. I think that consumers will either not bother to decipher it or interpret it differently. Nonetheless, as I stated above, emojis are meant to express emotions so maybe this advertising strategy could be successful if the icons were used with a insightful written message (in english).

  3. I love emojis as much as the next person and over the past few years they have found themselves properly integrated in text culture. Personally, I don't believe this conveys the message of stay away from drugs, and be your own person. I also believe it trivializes something that is incredibly serious.
    As a teen there is that peer pressure to fit in but I don't think this communicates it. I think it will elicit a groan more than anything when they figure out what it means.

  4. I have to say at the very outset, when I started reading your blog and the article from AdWeek, I was extremely sceptical. But when I delved a little deeper & clicked my way through the mobile/tab-optimized page, I began to understand exactly what the campaign’s goal was. And I have to say I’m quite impressed.
    The idea of speaking to high schoolers in a language that they speak/understand, and deem “sick” (read: cool!), without trying to make it sound preachy, is quite frankly fabulous – especially for a campaign that aims to make these kids abstain from drug abuse, when most of their peers endorse it. The situation itself is so delicate that it needs to be handled ever so carefully – one wrong move could alienate the entire target segment, rendering the campaign & all the effort behind it, useless/futile. Instead by using codes that speak specifically to kids and NO one else, the campaign achieves a variety of goals – 1. engages the target market and creates dialogue, via the process of decoding and creating new codes, 2. creates a sense of inclusivity for kids that are still “above the influence”, or unsure about themselves and 3. lends a certain sense of privacy to kids that might be feeling pressured yet in all honesty really don’t want to give in, but simultaneously, don’t want their parents/folks to know about what they’re going through. What’s even more interesting is that the doesn’t even open on a desktop or laptop! It is specifically designed for the mobile/tablet platform – again clearly demarcating who the campaign is really targeting.
    And while I was initially doubtful about the media platforms that had been picked by Hill Holliday – especially outdoor media/billboards – but in light of the campaign’s goals, the emoji one-liners set against their signature yellow backdrops, not only generate a talking-point about the campaign for onlookers, but also doubles up as branding – a logo, if you will, for the Drug-Free Kids campaign.

    - Moumita Virginia; mvr275

  5. I have no idea what this message was about, let alone being persuaded. If I walk by this advertising, I'll stop and try to figure out. I do appreciate that they're trying to make this serious topic in a creative way, if it's drawing more attention than usual anti-drug advertisement and at least getting people to talk about it, then it works.

  6. I love emojis, in fact I use them all the time when I chat on my phone. However, I don't see how an advertising campaign, specially a campaign like this one with such as strong message, would give it the serious meaning that it deserves. I am not really sure how emojis by themselves can work effectively if not accompanied by a solid content displayed in text.

  7. I have mixed views on this advertising approach. Since teens are probably bombarded with anti drug message from their parents, schools, churches, tv adverts etc. this will be another approach reinforcing those messages. If the emoji was intended to be the major vehicle for the message I don't think it works. Most teenagers would probably see it for what it is which is another adult message being sent their way just in another form. Overall I don't think it works. Teenage might enjoy deciphering it but that is about it. Its more fun than influencial.

  8. In agreement with most of the fellow posters, I also find that emoji messaging to have complications, especially when trying to drive home an important message like this. I understand this campaign is aimed towards current middle and highschoolers with visuals, a bit of trendiness and modern technology. But this youthful attempt is likely to back fire (unless applied with wording context) on clarity issues.
    We all note, the message without any context can be confusing. I had no clue what was written. I would have to continue to see these messages throughout my daily life, probably need to hire a tutor, likely get frustrated and walk away. I don't think I am alone in that thinking. Even though I am a Millennial, it probably means I have a short attention span, and they tend to be getting shorter. If that message can't be translated within seconds, like reading a billboard in English, then I have no use for it.
    Are parents 25+ forced to teach their children at a young age a new picture language? I feel this is dumbing down an accelerated, smart upcoming generation. Personally I would rather teach my child an audible language like Spanish or Mandarin. Advertisers could also get in hot water if their message is interpreted differently. That will happen because we are individuals and will read data differently without a set of rules.

    My personal opinion is that TV works as the best anti-drug forum. Where individuals tell their story, share graphic video/photos of their operations and surgeries from drugs, and explain how their miserable post-drug life can happen to you.
    Example: Guy with the colonoscopy bag for life, Robotic Voice box installed to speak, Son who wheel chair his mother around with a oxygen tank connected to breathe or will die.

  9. I love Emoji :) and I think Emoji can be a good communication tool between peoples. Especially, in Asian culture, we sometimes talk or send our message to other people indirectly so people can't understand what is the point. In this case, I think the message is very simple and could attract young people's attentions but at the same time it is difficult to recognize and know about key message I think. Because, in my opinion, powerful attention is more important than message itself.