In 1995, advertising history was made when a 30-second Super Bowl ad buy reached $1 million. Now, Super Bowl advertising on Twitter has reached the $1 million mark, too–for custom emoji.
According to AdWeek, clients who spent north of $1 million advertising on Twitter around the Super Bowl have gained the special privilege of including custom emoji as part of their campaigns. So whenever someone uses a prespecified hashtag, an emoji appears in the tweet.
As Super Bowl ads go, the emoji are understated to the point of being tough to read: for Verizon’s #Minute50 there’s a little stopwatch with a 50. Budweiser’s #GiveADamn is a bottle of Bud with what looks like, a pipe, but upon closer inspection, is really a hand responsibly dropping keys. Bud Light’s #BudlightParty is a very safe, very legible, blue bottle top. Pepsi’s #PepsiHalftime is the boldest, looking like a Pepsi logo crossed with Gazoo’s helmet. Twitter has been giving ad buyers custom emoji for a while, actually; there have been 17 so far, ranging from Subway to Beats to Dove.
The reach of these sponsored emoji is inherently anchored to the number of Twitter users actually using the corporate hashtag–probably negligible–but Twitter is experimenting with custom emoji outside of advertising too, with emoji that are triggered normal, non-advertising hashtags like #SuperMoon and #BlackHistoryMonth. During the Super Bowl, there will be hashtag-triggered emoji for both the Broncos and Panthers, too. For users, they’re clearly designed to feel like little easter eggs, accessible only during trending events, and only within the Twitter ecosystem–just one of several UX experiments that seem designed to draw users back to the platform.
This year, a 30-second Super Bowl ad is costing advertisers $5 million. And if emoji ad buys ever reach that point?