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Has the rise of the emoji left you lost for words?

A portmanteau of English words: "emote" and "icon", the word emoticon was coined to describe the pictograms so often used as shorthand for expressing emotions in written English. Emoticons are constructed from punctuation marks that are deliberately sequenced so as to depict facial expressions turned onto their sides. The evolution of these pictograms is debated, however, there are confirmed uses dating back as far as the 19th Century (Puck) and even a suggestion that one of Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 speeches contained one (New York Times).

Whatever the truth, more contemporaneously it is commonly accepted that usage in digital communications dates back to September 1982, when Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Melon University specifically proposed the use of :-) and :-( to convey emotions.

But that was back in the dark days, when all things internet and mobile phone were text-based only; so the ability to convey emotions in shorthand built only from ASCII characters was (then) considered very cool. How easily we were impressed! As we know all too well however, technology and tide wait for no man, so it wasn’t long before we all started to move towards more enriched graphical user experiences. Unsurprisingly, popular culture kept apace, retiring the tired and trite emoticon in favour of the new kid on the block, made possible by high resolution screens. This, of course, was the emoji.

It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words and while in face-to-face communication, it is easy to infer emotion through body-language, facial expressions and the intonation in a person’s voice, it would be much harder to do so in text-based communications, without pictograms such as emojis and emoticons.
With the ability to express emotions without having to spell out feelings, it is easy to see why pictograms have become so popular; and in their latest incarnation, the emoji, the gamut of icons now available means that almost any conceivable emotion can be represented by its stylised pictorial equivalent.

Fuelled by the Developed World’s (almost) ubiquitous adoption of smartphones, the rise of the all-conquering emoji has been dramatic and total; and, as if to demonstrate the point, in November 2015 the Oxford English Dictionary announced that its Word of the Year, wasn’t a word at all! It was in fact an emoji! (The “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.)

It is subjective whether this is heresy or just a modern language growing and adapting as its users’ dictate; and there are opinions from both sides. Regardless, the OED’s decision has made us wonder if, we as a global society, are becoming so immersed in the cultural use of emojis, that our emotional responses to stimuli are not only being expressed by an emojis, but also have started to be interpreted by them too?

This might sound like a leap, but actually, there are many precedents for precisely this in the world already. Afterall, both Japanese and Chinese are languages that rely heavily on character based words. So all that’s different with emojis is that they look like the things that they describe. Could this be the pictogram equivalent of onomatopoeia?

Perhaps our language is slowly but surely developing towards being more like Japanese and Chinese languages. Perhaps we can start to expect to see poetry, and even books, written entirely in emojis? Perhaps, due to their global recognition, emojis will develop into the human race’s first, truly global lingua franca? Whatever the outcome, we’ll be watching with interest.

Wikipedia Turns 15: Has Wisdom Come With Age?

Just how much would you trust a 15 year old? “Not very much” is the answer that comes to mind when I think of my adolescent self, however millions of us trust one particular teenager every single day – Wikipedia. The online encyclopaedia turned 15 last week, sparking a whole host of articles on its achievements, of which there are undoubtedly many.

What I’m interested in, however, is whether its growth in size, speed and users has made the site synonymous with truth.

Founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, Wikipedia was a mutation of Nupedia, an encyclopaedia written exclusively by experts. By contrast, Wikipedia was - and remains - an open book which un-vetted users can edit. Within one year it had 18,000 articles compared to Nupedia’s meagre 21, showing in harsh light the disparity between informed content and inspired content. Today it’s available in 290 languages.

How on earth has potentially incorrect, biased and ever-evolving content become such a dependable source of information?

Trust me, I’m easy and free.

Perhaps the biggest reason we turn to Wikipedia is ease. The digital age gave us the capability to put the entirety of our knowledge, opinions and thoughts in a place accessible by our fingertips anytime, anywhere. I couldn’t say whether our newfound expectance of this access was in part due to Wikipedia’s presence since 2001, or whether the site filled our thirst – chicken or egg. What we all inherently do know is that it takes more time for us to find our keys to head to the library than it does to pull up a Wiki page, and this knowledge has made us largely too impatient for books.

Another boon of the digital age is speed! Your trusty Britannica has no hope of being a source of current information, as you could edit a Wiki article thousands of times before the original story was published, printed and bound in Britannica. These days you can bet that the details of big breaking stories will be added to the topic’s Wikipedia at the same time as the BBC’s news article is posted, and sometimes even faster. Larry Page claims he used Wiki to follow the Georgia invasion in 2008 because it was faster and without the “fluff” or sensationalism of news articles. That’s one hell of a statement.

Wikipedia is also free. Since we always say that a price cannot be put on knowledge, how can its cost to the user (of which there is none) pass comment on its quality?

Millions of people gain newfound access to the internet every year due to their age or emerging economies, and so for many of them Wikipedia is one of the first authoritative voices they hear. “Wikipedia has been my friend since I was 10 years old” says 18 year old Rudi from Indonesia. "There are billions more people coming online for the first time and we need to meet their needs” says Wales.

New and old users undoubtedly see Wikipedia as an excellent source of information, but does any of this mean we see Wikipedia as the truth, or is it just the first port of call when absolutely accuracy is not our priority?

You still have a lot to learn, Wikipedia.

Despite its popularity, other authorities have always made sure Wikipedia does not get above its station. The education system at all levels still frowns on Wikipedia references and I do not see this changing in the years to come. Even if the academic attitude were to change, how - from a purely practical standing - can you reference content that might change the second after you’ve handed in your essay?

We might all subconsciously want Wikipedia, but we need search engines (let’s be honest - Google) to find it and I’m willing to bet that most of Wikipedia’s traffic comes from search engine results rather than direct visitors who type their query topic into the Wikipedia search bar. If you read Google’s 160 page Quality Assurance Guidelines (some light bedtime reading), you’ll see that Wikipedia is by no means considered more trustworthy than any other site. I’d go as far as to say that Google are actively trying to promote the presence of more authoritative voices with the way their Knowledge Graph is sourced.

Knowledge graph attempts to give users the information they’re looking for without even needing to visit the listed websites. You’ve probably seen more and more instant info displayed in Google’s search results as time has passed, and direct answers (shown above) is one element of this new trend.

Naturally Wikipedia frequently comes out top dog due to its popularity, but where technical questions are asked Google often finds more specialist content especially from .org or .gov sites. It’s evident from the Guidelines, as well as in practice, that Google always seeks multiple suppliers of the truth before handing you a direct answer.


The biggest and most fundamental issue with Wikipedia is, of course, the fact that content is user generated. From this comes a disparity in quality and tone: as the gender, age, and expertise of every editor is different, so is the quality of each article. Consistency is a huge issue, with pages on Pokémon containing 6,500 words compared to a meagre 902 words on a page explaining the principle of injustice. This to me begs the question “how can a website which gives more bytes to Pokémon than to the concept of injustice play such a major role in our education? Where are Wikipedia’s morals?”, however as Charles Arthur of the Daily Times said “when we peer into Wikipedia, and see ourselves peering back”.

Wikipedia gets the benefit of the doubt.

When I asked my colleagues what they thought of Wikipedia, what struck me was how a high number of their adjectives could be seen as positive or negative, “open” being a prime example. “Free”, “informative” and “varied” were contrasted with “partial” and “patchy”.

Whilst Wikipedia may not offer us the best information possible, the idea of returning to books is a ridiculous one – and our willingness to donate to Wikipedia to keep it going proves it.

Knowledge really does have a price, and in 2015 it was $72 million.

Interdirect Picks Up Top Prize at MK Digital Awards

Milton Keynes leading full service marketing agency, Interdirect picked up a hat-trick of awards, including Gold in the flagship “Website” category for its work on behalf of Biogen, food waste to renewable energy specialists, at the Milton Keynes Digital Awards 2015.

As well as the most prestigious accolade, the agency also scooped Silver for Biogen’s “Responsive Website” and Silver for “Website: Lifestyle and Culture”, which recognised its work on behalf of tourism and information provider, Destination Milton Keynes.

The brand new Milton Keynes Digital Awards recognise the innovation and progressive thinking of businesses, individuals, events, charities and educational establishments.

Nicholas Mann, founder and managing director of Interdirect explain; “Creating websites has been my all-consuming passion for over 20-years now, so naturally I am thrilled that the inaugural MK Digital Awards have recognised the fantastic websites we create for our clients, and in particular, to have bagged the top prize. It is hugely rewarding.”

“As co-organisers of the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards (MKBAA), I appreciate the importance of recognising and celebrating local success, and I am hugely impressed by the fantastic calibre and creativity of the digital industry in Milton Keynes.”

Anita Smith, marketing & communications manager at Biogen said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised by MK Digital Awards with not one, but two awards – and the ‘Blue Ribbon’ one at that! Interdirect nailed our brief perfectly and delivered exactly what we required by designing and developing such an engaging and content rich website. For a company operating in a niche industry, it feels fantastic to have gained independent recognition in this way.”

Dr Ann Limb, Chair of Destination Milton Keynes (DMK) commented; “Interdirect created our first website almost 10 years ago and has been keeping our digital channels ahead of the curve ever since. We are thrilled to have been awarded Silver in our category and look forward to coming back to fight for the top spot at next year’s awards.”

Interdirect Spreads Charity Cheer this Christmas with its #IDSantaSelfie Campaign


This Christmas, instead of expanding its client’s waistlines with its usual gifts of chocolates and fizz, innovative full service marketing agency, Interdirect is spreading Christmas cheer with a box of Santa Selfie goodies and the promise of a donation to the agency’s chosen charity.

The box contains all the props needed in order to create a silly Santa selfie, and for every Christmassy photograph posted to Twitter using #IDSantaSelfie, Interdirect will donate £2.50 to Milton Keynes Community Foundation, who will use the money to give life changing grants to local groups and charities.

This December, MK based clients will receive a gift wrapped box of props, including novelty hats and tinsel, for them to use for their Christmas selfies, while those further afield will be asked to come up with some creative Christmas snaps to help spread cheer and charity donations this festive season.

Commenting on the #IDSantaSelfie campaign, Sarah Surridge, marketing and campaigns manager at MK Community Foundation says: “We are thrilled that Interdirect has chosen to support us with this innovative and fun campaign and look forward to seeing lots of creative selfies this Christmas. As Vice President of MK Community Foundation, Nicholas Mann has given us a tremendous amount of support over the years, and this is the ‘star on the top’ of a fantastic year of giving from Interdirect.”

Nicholas Mann, managing director of Interdirect says: “This year, not only did we want to do something a little bit different from our usual Christmas gift giving, we also wanted to flex our creative muscles and practice what we so often preach by conceiving a creative, multi-channel campaign. Interdirect is a keen supporter of MK Community Foundation and we felt that our clients would embrace the opportunity to take part in this feel good festive activity. We hope that all of our clients will get stuck into the spirit of the #IDSantaSelfie campaign and we look forward to raising as much money as possible for the local community.”

To find out more about Interdirect follow us on Twitter @interdirect, find us on Facebook or visit our christmassy page dedicated to #IDSantaSelfie

Support Giving Tuesday to Save Lives!

On 1 December 2015, Interdirect will compete with a number of MK based businesses in the #GivingTuesday Challenge, a unique set of sporting activities that will see teams raise as much money as possible for local charity, Milton Keynes Community Foundation.

Last year, as part of the UK’s first #GivingTuesday, Interdirect was awarded the honour of “Most Creative Fundraising Idea” helping the Community Foundation raise £1,200 with its creative approach to . The innovative full service marketing agency created the ID Endurance Mann challenge, which saw managing director, Nicholas Mann put through his paces at a variety of leisure destinations across Milton Keynes.

This year, the agency is looking to build on that success and has invited eight other businesses to join in the challenge. Activities will be set by MK Dons SET, Snozone, Nuffield Health, Ellis Brigham and Bounce, and the winning business will be the one that raises the most money for MK Community Foundation by 5pm on 1 December.

Commenting on the impending #GivingTuesday challenge, Nicholas said: “We are all in training for next week’s challenge and are looking forward to taking on the fantastic variety of leisure activities in Milton Keynes. All money raised as part of the #GivingTuesday challenge will provide vital funds for charities delivering emergency food, care and warmth across the community of Milton Keynes this winter, so please dig deep and sponsor us to take on this challenge.”

To donate to Interdirect’s #GivingTuesday challenge visit our fundraising page or to find out more about Interdirect follow us on Twitter @interdirect, find us on Facebook or visit

The Best Periscope Campaigns of 2015

In early 2015 the world of marketing was full of whispers about the latest upcoming platform, Periscope. Whilst many social platforms are launched (and fail) on a daily basis, Periscope seems to be one of the few in recent memory which has grown from a whisper to a foghorn – and maintained the decibels.

Whilst the platform is still in the experimental, toe dipping stage, many brands have taken the plunge from the off. What is most interesting is the selection of brands that have done so – a handful of dark horses have steamed (or should we say streamed) in with some imaginative campaigns. We rounded up a few of the live streaming campaigns which we feel have learned lessons we can all benefit from when taking the Periscope plunge.

Doritos Roulette

Periscope is not yet quite strong enough to stand on its own two feet however integration with Twitter is easy since they own the new platform. Dominos used Periscope as a supplement to a wider campaign across Twitter, Vine, and YouTube. Each special ‘Roulette’ packet of crisps contained one super strength chilli Dorito, the purpose of the campaign being to capture the reactions of consumers as they consumed.

Using the hashtag #DoritosRoulette, all users had to do was tune in with their bag of crisps via Periscope to become eligible to be a contestant on the game. There was a Roulette wheel, spun by the game host, which decided which prizes were left to which contestant.

This campaign was great because it directly connected with viewers and encouraged them to try out the new platform. A much smaller pool of viewers than YouTube or Snapchat meant that engagement rates were much higher and the campaign had an intimate feel compared to Doritos’ other initiatives. Whilst this may change as the platform grows, Doritos capitalised on it at a time when enthusiastic early adopters were numerous.

The campaign also generated further press attention when the game was banned due to a schoolgirl claiming she almost died from the competition. And no, we’re not suggesting your campaigns physically harm your audience.

St Germain Peep Show Live

Unsung brand heroes St Germain teamed up with director Floria Sigismondi mid-2015 to produce a video campaign which was broadcast through YouTube and Periscope. Despite arousing attentions with its title, the campaign offered viewers a ‘behind the scenes’ peephole into the filming of ads at St Germain.

This Periscope campaign was one of the best because it harnessed voyeurism and ‘get it while it’s hot’ down to a T. Six two minute long burlesque shows were performed live by actress Hannah Simone from New Girl, and broadcast via the app. The recordings were available in Periscope for just 24 hours after their original post time, at which point they were mashed into a ‘behind the scenes’ video destined for YouTube.

Whilst sex largely sold this campaign, it shows the opportunity to use a mixture of live and edited footage to stretch out the lifeline of campaigns and to increase initial engagement with a ticking clock on unique, fresh content.

Connor O’Brien Session with Spotify

Product demos and interviews are two of the most obvious opportunities for Periscope, and streaming giant Spotify were clearly one of the first brands on the live bandwagon. Spotify used the platform to live stream an ad hoc acoustic session and behind the scenes clip with musician Connor O’Brien from The Villagers.

Over 380 viewers tuned in to the stream while it was being broadcast, showing the existence of an audience waiting for content. For those unaware of Periscope, the campaign also demonstrated the huge added value in offering consumers additional content that cannot be found elsewhere, and proved that their followers would invest the time in getting to grips with the new platform if a clear added benefit was on offer.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines tried out Periscope at 30,000ft, live streaming stages of an entire flight from Istanbul to New York and earning them the tag of first company to ever broadcast a whole flight. The broadcast showed flight crews before boarding, aircraft checks, passengers and the pilots hard at work, and concluded with a goodbye from the ground in New York.

The campaign was captivating in part because of the novelty element – flights are not typically associated with being connected to the rest of the world by Wi-Fi, quite the opposite! Like the St Germain Peep Show, the broadcast gave the impression of something real and unedited which differentiated the campaign from heavily prepared and scripted ads which are rapidly becoming background noise to consumers.

The stream received half a million hearts (the equivalent of Likes or favourites), and brought media attention to the carrier as a forward-thinking, bold brand, unafraid to try new things.

Many are hailing platforms like Periscope the future of interactive customer service, and even from a marketing perspective it’s clear that the app is far from saturated. We’ve trialled it with interviews and as an accompaniment to wider campaigns and found a surprisingly high number of viewers who tuned in. Whether you’re toe-dipping, belly flopping or gliding in gracefully, we recommend soaking Periscope up – it’s certainly not going anywhere for now.