Stunning loyalty

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The internet has given birth to an entirely new way of reaching Asian-Americans.

Until recently, the only choice has been in-language media, primarily Chinese newspapers and TV stations, in New York and West Coast markets.

But the Internet, with offerings ranging from in-language portals such as Sina.com reaching Chinese worldwide, to the all-English site, AsianAvenue.com, has opened the advertising door to Asians from all countries, whether Japan, Korea or India.

"The Internet really has opened up the possibilities of advertising to Asians, especially in the U.S.," says Wei-Tei Kwok, president, Dae Interactive Marketing, San Francisco. "It allows marketers to reach into the nooks and crannies of America, to ethnic Asian communities that have not had access to news, information and products."

Sina.com, Chinese.Yahoo.com, Youcool.com (formerly known as ccchome.com), AsianAvenue.com, and Click2Asia.com are most frequently mentioned by advertising industry executives as being some of the leading Asian portals and sites attracting large numbers of both new Asian immigrants and Asians that have been settled in the U.S. for a generation or two.

"The large number of sites, whether it's Sina.com or Youcool.com, allows advertisers to target Asian groups, down to language preference and age group," says John Steere, CEO-chief creative officer, Cyverasia, the digital division of ethnic marketing agency Admerasia, New York.

AsianAvenue.com has attracted more than 450,000 members in the last four months, says Calvin Wong, executive director-sales and marketing.

This membership base also is extremely loyal. "We know that they click in at least 10 times a month," he says.

AsianAvenue.com, which targets English-speaking Asians ages 16-35, aggressively promotes key aspects of its membership base to advertisers, primarily its age and loyal factors, and on that basis, has signed up advertisersBellSouth Corp., Microsoft Corp., Miramax Films, Mypoints.com, General Motors Corp. and U.S. Army.

Another marketer, Ibeauty.com, placed online ads on AsianAvenue.com in September, and since then, has been impressed by the number of click-throughs the site has generated.

"There's a certain serendipity to our placement on the site," says Ann Henry, chief financial officer at Ibeauty.com. "We test many different sites, and we thought, based on the demographics of this site, that it made a lot of sense for us. Sites and portals are only as good as the people and content on them . . . AsianAvenue.com seems to be doing all that successfully."

BellSouth also chose AsianAvenue.com as an appropriate site for banners and sponsorship buttons promoting its Real White Pages Online (www.realwhitepages.com), a site that allows consumers to look up residential phone numbers and addresses. A test flight in July and August produced significant enough results that the regional Bell telecommunications company committed to placements for a year.

"They showed us very strong demographics and loyal users," says Beth Suitt, advertising manager, BellSouth and Televentures. "It's the strong content and the tremendous loyalty of the membership base that makes this a good fit."

Mypoints.com, a direct marketing/loyalty Internet site, which awards points for purchases, has signed up more than 10,000 new users, exceeding its expectations, by advertising on AsianAvenue.com. Mypoints.com has about 4.2 million users overall, according to a company spokesperson.

"AsianAvenue.com is targeting the young, Web-savvy professionals, and we like to be associated with sites like that," the spokesperson says.

Sina.com focuses on in-language sites for ethnic Chinese living in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and North America. There are tremendous content similarities on all the Sina.com sites, says Hurst Lin, cofounder of Sina.com, head of U.S. operations, and VP-business development.

"Pop stars, singers, Jackie Chan, they're popular with Chinese no matter where they live," Mr. Lin says.

Most advertisers on Sina.com are information technology companies, such as IBM Corp., Motorola and Sun Microsystems, and telecommunciations firms, such as MCI Worldcom and AT&T Corp.

"We feel there are categories, such as airlines and financial services, that are natural matches for us," says Mr. Lin. "Other categories, such as consumer products, will take more time to develop."

A similar list of advertisers pops up for Click2Asia, a community site aimed at English-speaking Asians. Ameritrade Holding Corp., Eddie Bauer, Gateway are current advertisers.

"The Asian American is, quite simply, a very attractive consumer to advertisers," says Saul Gitlin, VP-strategy marketing services, Kang & Lee, New York, a division of Young & Rubicam. "We're just beginning to see the possibilities with Asian Web sites and portals. It truly is as Forrester says it is . . . we're witnessing the true digital melting pot online."

For some advertisers, however, it doesn't really matter why a particular site is performing well. It's enough that it is attracting the users that it claims to do.

"You don't have to analyze why something is working. You can accept that it just is," saysMs. Henry. "We're getting tremendous numbers of click-throughs on AsianAvenue and that's what we're aiming to achieve."

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