TBWA\Dublin has launched the world’s first smiling face mask emoji and submitted a proposal to Unicode for the creation to be added to emoji keyboards. Covid-19 has largely changed world views on face masks with recommendations from the WHO and other medical bodies that suggest face coverings are effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention found over 76 per cent of Americans now endorse face masks and in countries like Spain and Italy the number of people wearing coverings rose to over 80 per cent. The figure is just over 60 per cent in Ireland. TBWA\Dublin spotted an issue in a form of communication used the world over – the emoji keyboard.
Prior to the pandemic, face masks were recognised as a sign of illness, causing unease and apprehension among non-wearers. The current face mask emoji represents this sentiment – its closed eyes are visually linked to other emojis people use to express negative emotions. TBWA\Dublin research using 100 Voices revealed a negative perception from audiences.
However, the perception of face coverings has changed dramatically. In response, the agency created a brand new emoji to represent this. Face masks are now a sign of health, well-being and protection. They’re a sign of safety and security and this new emoji allows people to support a positive sentiment around face coverings.
Amy Tumelty, TBWA\Dublin’s social media and content specialist, said: “You can’t scroll through your social feeds right now without coming across a conversation about face masks and how important they are. But we realised that people are using an emoji that doesn’t support their positive feelings – it seemed out-dated and unrepresentative of perceptions.
“We wear face masks not only to protect ourselves and those around us, but also because they make us feel safe, secure and comfortable in public situations. Emojis have become such an integral part of online communication, so the new smiling face mask emoji is our way of furthering the efforts to normalise face masks,” Tumelty added.