Hill Holiday Speaks Emoji on Anti-Drug Billboards

By Erik Oster 

drug-free-kids-emoji-hed-2015Boston-based agency Hill Holiday launched an OOH campaign tapping into tween and teen kids’ use of emoji for Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the latest addition in its “Above The Influence” campaign.

The bright yellow billboards rely solely on emoji characters to communicate their message in an attempt to seem on the same level as its intended audience.

“We knew we wanted to be on a peer-to-peer level, so let’s do something in their language,” Hill Holiday copywriter Amanda Roberts told Adweek.

For those of who rely on the English language for communication, the billboards will seem nonsensical, calling to mind this scene from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (sorry, couldn’t find a better-quality clip), but Hill Holiday hopes that emoji-fluent teens will feel like they’re being spoken to directly. The image above, for example, which looks like “Eyes one ant peace-sign muscles drawer peach eyes can’t one ant peace-sign cigarette” actually means “I want to fit in, but I don’t want to smoke” to today’s youth. Above The Influence has also expanded beyond its anti-drug message to tackle issues like peer pressure to have sex, which it does in another billboard which spells out “It feels like everyone’s doing it” in emoji gobbledygook. The question, of course, is whether will see the billboards and think they are being spoken to on their level or whether they will feel pandered to in a condescending way.

emoji-campaign-awareness-01-2015In recent years, the organization’s advertising has also become considerably less preachy in its attempt to relate to teens. “It’s not about saying drugs are bad. It’s about saying drugs are not for me,” Kristi Rowe, chief marketing officer at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, explained to Adweek. “If you slip up, it’s okay. Try again tomorrow. We got you.”

The campaign also includes a mobile site, wegotyou.life, where teens can submit their own emoji sentences. Honey badger firetruck porcupine cactus mailbox. You know?