Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

Where: United Kingdom

When: 31 July 2019

Law stated as at: 5 August 2019

What happened:

The ASA has released a new guidance note on using emojis in advertising, hot off the fifth ‘World Emoji Day’ and an increase in rulings involving emojis.

The ASA’s note advises brands that:

  • Emojis should not disguise ads: emojis can make content look friendlier but should not be used to hide the fact that content may be an ad or make #ad harder to spot.
  • Emojis can appeal to the wrong audiences: different emojis can appeal to different audiences so should be used carefully. For example, some emojis may appeal to under-18s so should not be used for ads promoting restricted products and services, such as alcohol or gambling.
  • Emojis can be used irresponsibly: emojis should be used with social responsibility and not apply humour or trivialise certain products and services or be used inappropriate for innuendo. For example, the ASA has previously found that an ad for cosmetic surgery was making light of the procedure, and the ASA flags that the peach or aubergine emojis can have more than one meaning.

Why this matters:

As the use of emojis becomes increasing ubiquitous, many brands are seeking to use the same language as consumers in their marketing. Marketers need to ensure that the use of emojis does not affect an ad’s compliance with the ASA’s rules and that emojis are used carefully, appropriately and responsibly in context.