More Asians in TV Spots? It's About Time

Might Not Seem Like Much, But People Notice

By Published on .

Bill Imada
Bill Imada
Have you noticed that there are more Asians in television ads these days than just a few short years ago? It's true.

Although I don't watch as much TV as I did when I was in college, I have noticed that more marketers are using Asian actors in their spots than ever before.

AT&T, Priceline, Walt Disney and IKEA are just a handful of the many marketers who have included Asians in their commercials. And unlike the past, these Asian actors have roles that don't perpetuate or accentuate some of the tired stereotypes that have plagued Asians and Asian Americans for decades.

In the Priceline spot with actor William Shatner, an Asian couple could be any American husband and wife team. No forced Asian accents, high-pitched voices or even kung fu moves; just a typical, married couple searching for place to vacation online.

AT&T, who seems to always find ways to promote diversity in its spots, has a re-occurring character of Asian heritage in its TV ads. This Asian actor offers a voice of reason for his zany sidekick who lacks the wherewithal to select the best media solution for his lifestyle. What I like about this Asian character is the fact that he isn't an Asian techno geek. Instead, he is just a sensible, somewhat cynical guy who happens to be Asian. Nothing more, nothing less.

AT&T has another TV spot with the same two guys that include yet another Asian actor. In this particular spot, the same two actors from other AT&T commercials reappear: one Asian, one white. As the scene unfolds, you see a young Asian girl re-enacting a scene from a TV soap opera for the white character who doesn't have the multimedia capabilities he needs to pre-record or download the show for viewing later. The young Asian girl is joined by two of her non-Asian friends and leads the reenactment.

While this may not seem like that big a deal, the fact that the young Asian girl is leading the scene wasn't lost on me. It is nice to see that Asians can lead in a TV spot when we oftentimes aren't portrayed in leading roles on TV, on stage or on the Big Screen.

I also applaud the work being done by advertising agencies and their clients for portraying Asians and Asian Americans in a more favorable light. The American public really doesn't need to see more advertisements with Asians and Asian Americans engaged in karate fights, portrayed as laundrymen or kung fu masters, typecast as Chinese restaurant owners, or computer eggheads. Instead, Asians and Asian Americans want to see themselves (in TV, theater and movies) as being a part of the fabric that makes America one of the most richly diverse countries in the world.

I think I'll start watching a lot more TV.

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