CAP – Keeping your emojions in check – using emojis in ads

The ASA/CAP have released a post called: Keeping your emojions in check – using emojis in ads. I have enclosed the text of the link below, but please have a look at the ASA/CAP site as there are lots of things of interest to anyone with an interest in Ethical Marketing.

For most of you reading this, we suspect that at one point or another you’ve received a message or seen a post online that was filled with cartoons, gesticulations and possibly an illustrated vegetable. Perhaps it made you laugh , blow a gasket  or left you baffled , but there’s no doubt emojis (a.k.a the ideograms and smileys peppered on your texts and on social media) are ubiquitous across modern and digital culture.

Appearing everywhere from movies to household furniture, there is seemingly no limits to the popularity of these little icons – they’re definitely turning up more and more frequently in the ‘Ad Description’ in ASA rulings! For a marketer, they’re the perfect way to speak to your audience less like a brand and more like a pal.

The fifth anniversary  of World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a real thing) took place earlier this month ( 17 July), so we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some advice to help make sure there are no sad faces   when your marketing gets ‘emojional’. 

Distinguishing advertising content

Emojis can be a powerful tool to make your content relatable, friendlier and relevant to your audiences, particularly when it comes to social media. However, you should keep in mind when you’re littering your ads with love hearts  and tears of joy , you must always ensure that consumers can still recognise that what they’re reading is an ad. 

So make sure that if you choose to slap on a smiley face  you also follow the principles in our influencers guide on making clear that ads are ads, to ensure that your audience knows when what they’re seeing is an ad.

What’s the appeal?

Although you should always be mindful of your audience, it would seem that the ASA’s current view is that emojis, in and of themselves, do not automatically have particular appeal to specific audiences.  As this ruling on Beverage Brands (UK Ltd) t/a Wkd UK highlights, the ASA consider emojis likely to have appeal across all age groups, including under-18s , and their use doesn’t necessarily reflect or have a direct association to youth culture.   

That said, if the particular context or combination of emojis is directly associated with an aspect of youth culture – or otherwise likely to appeal more to children than adults – then there are certain types of products (e.g. alcohol , gambling , e-cigarettes , etc.) that should avoid this in their marketing .


Of course, the use of emojis can contribute to the meaning of the ad and, depending on the sector you’re advertising, could also ultimately render an ad irresponsible . In this ruling for All-Dolled-Up, several emojis were used throughout an ad for cosmetic surgery which (in combination among other factors) was deemed irresponsible for trivialising the surgery itself.

It’s also worth being aware of the various alternative meanings for emojis and strings of emojis – there are some contexts in which a misplaced peach or aubergine could potentially risk falling foul of the ad rules – know your emoji!

And remember…

To help avoid your ad copy leaving you in the  speak to our Copy Advice team for free, bespoke advice on your non-broadcast advertising.

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