Emojis will never (fully) replace copywriting. Here's why.
People who follow the copywriter community on Twitter will have noticed we're not all entirely keen on emojis.
They're everywhere. McDonald's was at it months ago. John Lewis had a wobble, and we all pointed and laughed. The laugh-cry emoji was named as a 2015 Word of the Year. I've got a word for that. It's not repeatable here.
You can get Kimojis now. There was a thing for Earthmojis. Pepsi is about to release a ton of branded cans with 40 specially commissioned PepsiMojis. All I need is a Mojo Jojo emoji (a Mojo JojoMoji, created in the city of Townsville) and I'll be all set.
The emoji is our Tribble, mysteriously reproducing in alarming numbers. Hardly anyone knows where the hell they all came from. Or why they won't just die.
Some people have compared the emoji to the hieroglyph when debating whether it could work as an entire language. It's even been said that emojis are already a more developed 'language' than hieroglyphs ever were.
The issue with that argument is that hieroglyphics aren't a totally fair point of comparison to use. They combined images which represented things and ideas with others that were purely phonetic. That included 24 symbols that stood for single consonants. Having similar emoji letters from A to Z would be somewhat defeating the point.
And while emoji in Japanese (絵文字) really means 'pictograph', a visual representation of a word or phrase, they don't cover our entire vocabulary. I have yet to see the emoji for 'millennial', for example.
This hasn't stopped the advance of emojis, and the advance of comments on the advance of emojis. The Guardian says it's now the fastest-growing language in the UK.
So. The big question. Are emojis going to imminently rise up and replace the words that we copywriters craft so carefully?
In the beginning, emojis came along as a supplement to the typed word, for context. It sounds like a mashup of 'emotion icons', to be fair. We even started by calling them 'emoticons', shortening to 'emoji' long after the Japanese did. Facial expressions go a long way when it comes to interpreting the tone of what's being said. It's not as easy to get humour and sarcasm across in text.
The use of the emoji as something that augments our use of actual, proper words is natural. That's what we've been doing for years. It's the digital equivalent of body language - the clarification and emphasis, rather than the message itself.
Imagine if we tried to do the same thing for face-to-face conversations. Nobody's suggesting that we all go mute and rely on winks and meaningful bum wiggles to communicate, are they? No. Because that would be bloody stupid. Entrusting all messages solely to the emoji would be doing the same.
The BBC has also shown us that emojis are still nowhere near good enough to provide solid meaning on their own. These represent real news headlines:
I know that the top one's meant to be 'One in four people don't know the dodo is extinct, a poll finds' because I read about it somewhere else. The others are completely indescipherable. Real useful, eh?
And while the number of emojis is growing, they're not that useful for regular conversations. Some of the more recent additions mooted include: face with cowboy hat, 'Mother Christmas', a bat, an octagon, and selfie hand. Selfie hand. Here's an idea. If you want to show someone that you're taking a selfie, send the photo.
The use of hieroglyphs declined mainly as a result of religion, but it was hastened by the introduction of the Greek alphabet. We have a perfectly good alphabet. One that lets us spell out 'millennial'. Emojis have been at a disadvantage from the start.