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TBWA\Dublin Calls for Introduction of Smiling Face Mask Emoji

With facemasks now mandatory in many enclosed settings including public transport and shops, TBWA\Dublin has come up with a novel proposal for a “smiling face-mask emoji.”

The Rathmines-based agency has submitted a proposal to Unicode, the world standard for text and emoji, for a ‘Smiling Face Mask Emoji’ to be added to emoji keyboards around the globe.

The Covid-19 pandemic has largely changed world views on face masks. Recommendations from the World Health Organisation, as well as numerous medical studies that suggest face-coverings are effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus, resulted in a dramatic change in global behaviour. The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention found that over 76% of Americans now endorse face masks and in some countries, such as Italy and Spain, the number of people wearing face coverings rose to over 80% of the population. Latest research shows that this figure is just over 60% in Ireland.

With this rapid change of global behaviour in motion, TBWA\Dublin spotted an issue in a form of communication used by the world-over – the emoji keyboard. Prior to the pandemic, face masks were recognised by most as a sign of illness, causing unease and apprehension amongst non-face mask wearers. The current face mask emoji accurately represents this sentiment – it’s closed eyes are visually linked to other emojis people use to express negative emotions.

According to Amy Tumelty, social media & content specialist at TBWA\Dublin: “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 current 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.”

“When you take a close look at the current face mask emoji – it clearly represents ill-health or sickness. The eyes are squinting, and from our 100 Voices Research – people said that the emoji even appears to be wincing,” says Andrew Murray, director of social media & content at TBWA\Dublin.

“This emoji has its place. It can represent sadness or sickness. But the world has changed over the past 6 months. Wearing a mask can help to stop the spread of Covid-19. So we need to remove any negative connotations around mask wearing – and show it to be a positive thing that will help you and protect others. Kids (and some adults – myself included!) have entire conversations using only emojis – if this emoji addition can help in some small way to normalise mask wearing and make it less of a ‘scary thing’ for some people – it may even save a life.”



Social Media & Content Specialist, Amy Tumelty
Creative Director, Dillon Elliott
Director of Social Media & Content, Andrew Murray
Art Director, Leona Smyth
Motion Graphics Designer, Mark Murray


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