Brands have been increasingly joining the emoji culture to promote their products and services online. If a petition to the nonprofit that develops standards for emoji is successful, they may soon be using an emoji to comply with marketing disclosure rules as well.
IZEA Inc., an online marketplace that matches brands with social media users who get paid for writing promotional content, has asked the nonprofit Unicode Consortium to add an #AD emoji to a universal character coding system of which emoji are a part: the Unicode Standard.
IZEA said the proposed digital character would serve as a “global common method” for disclosing sponsored content on social media, in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement guides.
The FTC’s guides require clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material connection between an advertiser and an endorser when such a relationship isn't apparent from the endorsement's context. There is no required language to make such a disclosure, but the FTC has suggested “#ad” as an effective disclosure for posts on platforms like Twitter.
The company said “#AD” is the most appropriate form for the proposed emoji because it is the most common disclosure form used.
According to IZEA, “#ad” was used 1.1 million times between August and September 2016, a 35 percent increase from the same period last year.
IZEA also said that the combination of “AD” with the hashtag symbol and the shape of the emoji would quickly communicate to viewers that the content following the emoji is sponsored content. IZEA proposed four emoji shapes: a square, a billboard, a blimp and a talk bubble.
IZEA said that if the petition is successful, the #AD emoji would be supported by social media platforms in approximately two years.
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