An Angry Durex Punishes the World With Eggplant-Flavored Condoms

In retaliation for no condom emoji

Flavored condoms generally come in sweet and fruity flavors, like strawberry, grape and banana. Now imagine one that tastes like eggplant.

Durex is retaliating against the Unicode Consortium, after the tech-standardization overlord in August rejected the marketer's bid for an official condom emoji, by launching a gag campaign about the launch of a savory rubber based on the phallic purple plant—which, in millennials' texts about sex, has become a popular metaphor for dick.

Few will be upset that the horrifying variety isn't real. But the stunt does include an amusing mockup of eggplant condom packaging, and no shortage of other little highlights. "Eggplants have long been seen as a nutritious food staple, serving as a key ingredient for dishes including Moussaka, Ratatouille and Baba ganoush," cackles the release.

"Durex knows there is no place for an eggplant when it comes to safe sex," adds the company. "It's just as questionable, in fact, as a decision not to introduce a Safe Sex Emoji to empower young people to talk about sex, safely, in a language they are comfortable with."

Durex's campaign for a condom emoji began in 2015, when the company launched a social media campaign that it says drew some 750,000 endorsements from consumers in 140 countries. A video from the campaign featured a version—an unrolled, inflated rubber—that some might've considered too risqué.

But the official submission to the Unicode Consortium, which includes companies like Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, was more modest—a prophylactic still in its square wrapper. That design features in a graphic for Durex's comeback, with dozens of the rejected emojis combined to create an oversized raised-eyebrow emoji, like a poor man's Chuck Close.

It's a fun, reasonable response, even if there's an element of feigned outrage as sales strategy. Some 84 percent of 16- to 25-year-olds have said they felt more comfortable talking about sex using emojis, according to Durex's research. A study at Durham University in England, meanwhile, found three quarters of participants supported a condom emoji, to facilitate—and lighten—discussion about safe sex.

"Durham's research found there is a disconnect between the general ease with which young people engage in sexual activity and the difficulty they have in discussing issues around safe sex," said Dr. Mark McCormack, a senior lecturer in sociology at the school, and co-director of its Centre for Sex, Gender, and Sexuality. "Discussion of sex and sexuality is an everyday component of young people's lives, yet young people are given little support in how to discuss safe sex."

Further highlighting the importance of its general cause, Durex is also in the midst of co-sponsoring a campaign with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to raise awareness of a relatively new sexual health threat—the Zika virus.

As for the emoji angle, for anyone who still doesn't know what's going on, there is always Domino's emoji literacy flash card set. Whether that includes the symbol at hand isn't clear, though it hopefully does. Eggplants are, at the very least, a decent pizza topping. 

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@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.