With 84 per cent of young people using emojis when communicating with a sexual partner, the impact of the tiny illustrations is greater than you probably imagine, and so sexual wellbeing brand Durex is continuing a campaign it launched last year to introduce an official safe sex emoji.
While the Unicode Consortium, the computer industry body which dictates, among other things, which emojis make the cut, has yet to respond to Durex's #condomemoji campaign, the brand has held a global poll in order to decide on an unofficial safe sex emoji, which it also hopes will raise awareness of the risks of unprotected sex on World AIDS Day.
After a global poll of 3,500 consumers, Durex has declared 'Open Umbrella with Raindrops' as its safe sex emoji. The symbol received nearly a quarter of all votes, beating out rivals including 'Heavy Large Circle' and 'Helmet with White Cross'.
"At Durex, we believe that for this World AIDS Day, identifying the unofficial safe sex emoji is an important step that helps to empower young people to put safe sex back on the agenda, supporting the fight to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS," said Volker Sydow, global category director at Durex. "We are asking people to show their support for the cause by using this unofficial safe sex emoji and sharing the hashtag #CondomEmoji."
A survey by the brand found that almost half of 16 to 35 year olds felt that HIV is not something that could ever affect them, despite the fact that 36.7m people globally were living with HIV in 2015, and 2.1m people were newly infected with the virus during the last year.
More than 60 per cent of young people surveyed admitted to being uncomfortable discussing safe sex with their partners. 72 said they found it easier to express emotions using emojis, with 90 per cent agreeing that an official condom emoji might help them talk more openly about safe sex.
Durex's campaign was promoted in 17 countries, including France, Spain, Ireland, India, the UK and US, with the brand using social media to spread its message among consumers, with a particular focus on young people.
"Safe sex awareness continues to be an important global challenge," said Tewodros Melesse, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Association. "We support Durex's campaign in helping make young people think about protection. On World AIDS Day, we will be backing this effort to help raise awareness of the risks associated with unprotected sex."
"Last year we used the campaign as a platform to re-educate people in the importance of practicing safe sex, at the same time demonstrating to Unicode the need for a safe sex emoji," said Sydow in an interview Mobile Marketing Magazine. "Due to the volume of support we received and after Unicode's decision not to introduce a safe sex emoji this year, we conducted a global poll and invited participants to vote for the emoji."
"The channels through which young people communicate continue to evolve, and as a result this impacts the way in which they discuss sex. We want Unicode to reconsider and introduce a safe sex emoji to aid these conversations and raise awareness of the need to practice safe sex.
"A large portion of our consumers use digital channels to communicate and as a result we have also had to adapt. As the global leading condom brand we had and have an important role in making sex more protected and educating consumers about safe sex. But we only achieve that if we reach our consumers in the ways they communicate, and we believe the introduction of a safe sex emoji is one step closer to doing that."