Over the last couple of years our Advisory Service has seen an increasing number of requests for a view on use of emojis. It’s no surprise that advertisers want to grab hold of the latest ways in which people communicate – it’s an industry based on getting a message across so of course it will sit at the bleeding edge of technology.

The trouble is, emojis have long been assumed to have particular appeal to under-18s. From cartoonish smiling faces to cutesy anthropomorphic poo, emojis are a language used by the young generation in everyday communication. On that basis, the Advisory team has historically advised that use of emojis is likely to be found in breach of the Code in the event of a complaint.

It’s not just the younger generation that use emojis though – the benefit of a visual language in character-limited or global forms of communication is clear. So while the Advisory team have been advising against their usage, they have also seen some compelling arguments for a more general appeal.

The Advertising Standards Authority published a ruling recently on whether emojis have particular youth appeal. The complaint was about a Twitter post on an alcohol brand’s page and featured a photo of a phone screen containing a message and a ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji. They did not uphold the complaint. As part of their assessment the ASA stated:

“We considered emojis were likely to have appeal across many age groups including, because of their cartoon-like appearance, those under 18. However, we considered they were not likely to have particular appeal to under-18s by reflecting or being associated with youth culture and concluded that the ad therefore did not breach the Code.”

This is a fairly broad thumbs up to emojis from the ASA, but it is worth noting that the emoji in the Twitter post was in the context of a message. Not only that, it was one smiley plus some mini bottle images. There are myriad options for combining emojis or using them in different media so while the Advisory Service will bear the ASA’s position in mind when reviewing future requests, we will continue to operate on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the advice given by the Advisory Service is for promotions which fall under The Portman Group remit rather than the ASA’s remit. The Independent Complaints Panel, which investigates complaints to The Portman Group, will be aware of the ASA’s decisions but is not bound by them.

If you’d like fast, confidential and free advice on a promotion that involves emojis please contact the Advisory Service.