Ads That Hit the Mark

Getting It Right Without Stereotypes

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
In one of my last postings, I wrote about an ad ( that perpetuated a number of negative stereotypes including the use of forced, exaggerated foreign accents that offended a large number of consumers and community leaders. However, I'd like Asian-American agency and community leaders to take note of a couple of new commercials that are airing on TV. These spots give me hope that mass-market advertising firms do have the ability to create simple but memorable ads that don't resort to the tiresome old stereotypes that can malign a whole population of people.

The ads I'm about to discuss resonate well with consumers and don't place Asians and Asian Americans in archetypal roles such as the overachieving No. 1 son of proud Chinese parents, or as an immigrant family gathered around a dining room table under the watchful eye of grandma, the matriarch of the Wong Family Clan. Or even worse, have Asians appear as kung fu artists popping out of windows, smashing through doors, and dodging swords, evil doers and the like. These stereotypes do nothing except keep Asians and Asian Americans relegated to the unenviable status of being viewed as perpetual foreigners here in North America.

But occasionally I find a few gems such as the two commercials I'd like to feature in this blog.

There really isn't anything original in either of these ads, but the simplicity of their messages is easy to understand and even easier to embrace. The first ad "Love Story" was produced for GE by BBDO and brings the viewer to a small, presumably Chinese village.

The story could really be in any town or city, and in any part of the world. And if you believe that people can fall in love at first sight, you'll appreciate this spot. The storyline is about a man who catches a glimpse of an attractive woman walking through the village. As they exchange tentative glances, they innocently flirt with one another and exchange timid waves. As the man continues to watch the woman, he tries to woo her with a small bouquet of flowers (or flowering vegetables). He then trips and knocks over some stalls in the village marketplace with domino-like precision.

Fast forward. The would-be lover is slightly injured and finds himself in a crowded clinic. A medical professional -- perhaps the doctor -- is reviewing x-rays as the voiceover talks about GE's technical prowess enabling even the smallest of villages to have the latest in medical technology to meet their healthcare needs. But the icing on the cake is the young doctor. It's the same woman that the injured young man was pursuing in the village. It's nice to see that the village physician is a woman and not in the archetypal role of a subservient housewife.

The second commercial that I like is the E*TRADE's "First Trade" spot by Grey Advertising. The simplicity of this ad is perfect. And, rather than featuring a traditional Asian-American family sitting around the dining room table eating rice cakes and pot stickers, the extended family featured in this commercial is shown sitting around a computer impatiently anticipating the family's first online stock trade.

Some of you might say, "Hey Bill, isn't this perpetuating the stereotype that all Asians are rich, money-hungry fiends who spend all of their waking hours watching their money?" No, not in the least.

This Asian family could be any American family, including the kids and grandma, marveling at their ability to trade securities and get details about stock trades with a simple click of a few buttons. The spot doesn't incorporate forced foreign accents and shows that a family can be engaged in something other than a Chinese Lunar New Year dinner.

Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.

I also want to take a moment to congratulate a true pioneer in the field of multicultural advertising and marketing, Jo (Melvin) Muse and his team at Muse Communications in Los Angeles. Muse Communications was named the Creative of the Year by the Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF) for its great work on the American Honda business. Jo started Muse Cordero Chen (an integrated marketing communications and advertising agency) long before it became en vogue to use terms such as ethnic, multicultural, diversity and inclusion. He and his team took risks and invested a lot of time and capital to educate corporate marketers and governmental agencies on the need to address consumers and business owners of all backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. Therefore, it is only fitting that Jo and his team are recognized by their peers for the lasting contributions they have made to the advertising industry. Congratulations, Jo. Well deserved.

You can also see a couple of the TV spots here and here. Enjoy.
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