BY DAYSI CALAVIA-ROBERTSON

Special to the Miami Herald

                 

The Last Emoji, an eye-catching yellow sculpture, standing at nine-feet-tall and weighing 900 pounds, now winks its eye — a wrecked tire — and shows off its bright red tongue — a car seat — to passersby in Wynwood.

But don’t let its whimsical appearance fool you. The piece, originally unveiled on Brickell Avenue by Sprint and Coconut Grove ad agency Alma Advertising, was designed to create awareness about a serious issue: texting and driving.

It’s an issue the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points to as a key factor in the deaths of 3,129 people in distracted-driving crashes in 2014, the most recent year for such statistics.

“At Alma, we consider ourselves cultural curators, always looking for elements of the culture that can help us make a connection,” said Luis Miguel Messianu, creative chairman and CEO of Alma Advertising, who worked on the campaign to promote Sprint’s “Drive First” app for Android users, which locks the phone when the car reaches 10 mph, silences emails and text alerts, and sends automated messages stating that the driver is on the road and driving safely.

However, the concept of The Last Emoji was closely tied to initiatives celebrating April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the sculpture was put on display at the end of the month “to close it out with a strong statement and continue the conversation into May.”

“The topic of texting and driving is so important and so relevant, but it’s been used and abused,” Messianu said. “So we wanted to talk about it in a new, creative way. And what better way than with emoticons, which have become an integral part of the social conversation?”

The sculpture, which was made by Wynwood artist Rudolf Kohn — who used parts from a crashed car found in a junkyard — has already drawn reactions from walking traffic in the downtown Miami area. Alma reports that it has tracked 1.7 million impressions on social media through the #SprintDriveSafe hashtag.