Nikita Richardson
July 10, 2015 11:16 am

Emoji-speak is quickly becoming a language unto itself. Of course, not everyone gets it yet, but not everyone needs to get it. That’s the thinking behind a new campaign designed specifically to target high schoolers—the most fluent of Emoji-speakers.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ campaign is just a series of graphic icons that say a lot more than they seem. According to Adweek, it’s part of a program to reach teenagers about some serious issues, in particular, substance abuse. 

While teen drug use has steadily declined in the past two decades—for instance, only 19.4 percent of high school seniors say they binge drink compared to 31.5 percent in 1998—there’s still a significant number of teens using or abusing drugs, which can take a toll on a still-developing brain and their academic life.

Meanwhile, those at the helm of anti-drug organizations are moving past the scared-straight method and trying instead to meet teens at their level.

“It’s not about saying drugs are bad. It’s about saying drugs are not for me,” Partnership CMO Kristi Rowe told Adweek. “If you slip up, it’s OK. Try again tomorrow. We got you.”

The aptly-named #wegotyou campaign is a far cry from the decidedly intense campaigns the Partnership released back when it was known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. (Some will recall the now-iconic 1997 “Frying Pan” ad from the “Your Brain On Drugs” campaign.)

In designing this new campaign, which speaks directly to teens instead of using the wagging fingers of adults, Boston-based ad agency Hill Holliday was commissioned by the Partnership to touch on not only drug use, but also bullying, body image, and sex.

“For teens that are having trouble putting into words the issues they are going through, emojis are what they naturally tend to gravitate towards,” Hill Holliday junior art director Alyssa Fishman tells Adweek. “It’s without a doubt the best way to talk about these difficult situations.”

And with ads appearing in Time Square, movie theaters, magazines, and on the mobile web (where users can create their own emoji messages), teens are unlikely to miss out on the message.

As for that emoji sentence in the ad above? It says, “I want to fit in, but I don’t want to smoke.” But you already knew that.

(Image via Adweek via Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)

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