Emoticons can be so darn cute, what with their big cartoon eyes, red-hearted smooches, and playfully sheepish tongues.
But move the position of that tongue from side to center and add a little spit and chin stubble to that kissing mouth and things can get creepy fast. And that's exactly the point of a new French ad campaign aimed at protecting kids from Internet predators.
The provocative national campaign, launched by Innocence en Danger, a nonprofit dedicated to child safety, and ad agency Rosapark, features images that take familiar emoticons into oogie territory with real human faces. "Do you really know who's talking to your child on the Internet?" the copy reads. Hopefully not anyone even remotely resembling the guys in these posters.
The emoticon-gone-bad images currently appear in magazines and newspapers, and in Paris bus shelters, surely terrifying adults and children alike. I, for one, will never look at an online winky face the same again.