Asian Americans Finally in Commercials — As Tech Geeks

The Washington Post reports on a growing trend that's playing off of old stereotypes.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 24, 2011

Asian Americans are appearing in technology advertising more and more often and as a result creating a new stereotype, according to the Washington Post. When Asian Americans appear in advertising, they are typically presented as tech experts who are great at math. It’s an old stereotype that’s sadly made its way into consumer advertising.

Here’s a snippet from the Washington Post’s story Asian Americans face new stereotype in ads:

The stereotypical portrayal reinforces a marketing concept known as the "match up" theory, which states that consumers respond more favorably to products advertised by an actor or spokesperson who "fits" the product. Just as consumers expect cosmetics to be sold by a supermodel or athletic equipment by a professional athlete, in the minds of the U.S. public, Asian Americans are strongly associated with technical know-how, says researcher Jinnie Jinyoung Yoo of the University of Texas.

Variations on the theme have appeared in numerous TV commercials in recent months:

?Staples advertises its computer-repair service with images of laptops flying like gulls into one of its stores. When one of the laptops crash-lands, the fix-it technician who comes to its "rescue" is an Asian American.

?CVS’s TV ads feature a lab-coated pharmacist of Asian descent dispensing advice about medication to a baffled Caucasian lady.

?A mother and her teenage son shopping at Best Buy learn that the store offers "Geek Squad" techies, who are packaged and displayed like life-size action figures on the store’s shelves. One of the tech guys is an Asian American.

?IBM’s commercials feature brainy IT consultants, including a young Asian American woman who talks up the company’s efforts to create "a smarter planet."

Even though the majority of experts interviewed in the article see this new trend as a step forward, they’re quick to point out there are still plenty of roles Asian Americans are seldom cast to play. 

"There’s no Asian American equivalent of the Old Spice guy, the hunky leading-man type played by an African American actor, Isaiah Mustafa. In fact, Asian American men rarely play romantic roles on TV or in American-made movies," Jeff Yang, a New York-area marketing consultant told the Post.