The pitch drew on the pickup’s intensely masculine vibes. “The associations of working class, hard work, and toughness are not currently associated with any of the vehicles that exist,” in emoji, it said. Emoji, the argument seemed to be, were made for pixel pushers at the expense of earthmovers. (When asked, VanDyke said he does not believe emoji have a pro-urban bias.)
Jennifer 8. Lee, a vice chair of the Unicode emoji subcommittee, told me by text message that the pickup-truck proposal was impressive. There was only one wrinkle, she said: She didn’t know Ford was behind it. While the proposal was designed like a Ford corporate PowerPoint, it does not include the Ford logo or mention that Ford underwrote its creation. Instead, it says it was written by Nathan Maggio, then a creative director for Blue State.
That sponsorship “probably should have been disclosed,” Lee said. Other emoji proposals from corporations, such as those from Durex and Kit Kat, have noted their sponsor, she said, and Ford and Blue State should have done the same. “Some transparency would be nice,” she said.
But the lack of disclosure probably would not jeopardize the pickup emoji, she added. “It was a solid proposal,” she told me. “Companies and their agencies usually have terrible proposals and I remember [the pickup truck’s] being very good.” In a statement, a Blue State spokesman confirmed Ford was a client and that Blue State “submitted the proposal as part of the work and services we offer.” The firm has not pitched other emoji to the Unicode Consortium, he said. (Maggio, who has since left Blue State to work on a presidential campaign, did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.)
Despite those corporate efforts, generally speaking, emoji are not a high-margin business, Lee said. She volunteers for the Unicode Consortium, and she has not directly benefited from her successful efforts to create dumpling and hijab emoji. “People sometimes ask if I get royalties for the dumpling emoji and I’m like 🙄,” she said by text.
For now, the pickup emoji is barreling down the road to completion. If all goes according to plan, it will be available on iPhones and Androids next June, along with new emoji for houseplants, bubble tea, and tamales. They will join the tuk tuk and motorized-wheelchair emoji, two new transport pictograms set to debut this fall.
VanDyke is psyched. He anticipates the truck emoji being used alongside the bicep emoji, the knuckles emoji, and—of course—the ❤️. “In country music, if you didn’t have trucks, the songs would only be about beer and broken hearts,” he said.