The middle finger and the unicorn emoji are just a few of the 150 emoji that have been released as part of the latest iOS update. But there’s another one that caught people’s eye: a new emoji shaped like a speech bubble with an eye in the center.
The eye emoji is part of a new anti-bullying digital campaign by the Ad Council, brands and tech companies including Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, Johnson & Johnson and Twitter. Called “I am A Witness,” the campaign is a pro bono effort by Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
The emoji is the first Unicode Standard approved emoji ever created for a social cause. It’s not available on Android yet, but Android users can download a special keyboard developed pro bono by emoji keyboard company Snaps.
“Emojis have become a second language for teens, and they provide a relevant and easy way to get involved,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Through this extraordinary collaboration, we will transform witnesses from passive bystanders into a united, empowered and active collective that will speak up against bullying.”
One out of every four teens (22 percent) report being bullied during the school year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. The Internet has also fueled the issue, with 15 percent of high school students reporting being bullied online. However, studies have shown that more than half of bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the bullying victim.
“Most anti-bullying campaigns address the victim or the bully, but not the silent witnesses,” said Hanna Wittmark, art director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. “We wanted to create something that activates this silent majority. The eye is very symbolic in this regard.”
The campaign can also be seen on teen-focused platforms such as Instagram, Kik, Shots, Snapchat, Tumblr, We Heart It, Vevo and Whisper. Snapchat has a geofilter specifically developed for the campaign, which can be accessed today. Social influencers such as the Fine Bros., Grace Helbig, Glozell Green and Rachel Platten are also raising awareness for the campaign and the emoji through new videos and activations on their social platforms.
The corporate and non-profit partners will also promote the campaign on their own platforms. The project is a personal passion of Ann Lewnes, Adobe’s CMO. Last year, she and Adobe launched a project inspired by Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully. Adobe wanted to extend the message, and thus the current campaign was born.
Several videos will also generate awareness for the campaign and the emoji. An interactive, animated video by Moonbot Studios tells the story of a boy named Jack who is bullied at school. When the user interacts with the video using the onscreen emoji, the boy’s bleak world becomes colorful and happy.
Another long-form video shows YouTube stars reading mean comments about themselves and then speaking out against bullying — a more serious spin on Jimmy Kimmel’s celebrity videos.