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All American Family

May 25, 2010

We’re hosting a lunch and learn tomorrow about cultural fluency and advertising appeal. We’re looking at audiences and creative work from various perspectives — demographic, cultural, mindset, media. The process of curating the content for this hootenanny sparked lots of great discussions in The Lair.

Take this Target ad for example. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s a Target ad.” Or you might be wondering if you missed an Asian stereotype. You didn’t. The big deal about this ad is that it was passionately blogged about and heavily commented for its non-stereotypical — better yet, very cool — depiction of an Asian family.Yeah. That’s it. For those of us who work in advertising, that should make you pause and think.

Angry Asian Man dedicated a post titled Freaking Love This Target Commercial

“I just watched the 30-second spot like five times in a row. It features Shannon, a Cool Asian Mom doing all sorts of Cool Asian Mom stuff for her family (with the help of products she purchased at Target, of course). She does it all …

Playing tetherball, working at the travel agency, beatboxing for her groovin’ kid, taking fabulous all-American family portraits. Sure — nobody’s mom is this cool, but it’s so friggin’ cute, you cannot resist. It’s just refreshing to see a nationally-televised commercial where Asians are not the butt of the joke.”

It was reposted at Racialicious where a commenter named Ashlynn wrote

“Not to take away from this great commercial at all, but is it just me, or does “normal” not seem to be the best word choice here? Because if you want to break it down, that implies that anything outside of that- i.e, traditions within each culture of Asia- would not be normal. I’m thinking that what’s meant here is that the mom can do things with her family that don’t have to be stereotypical and overtly “ethnic.” That aside, I absolutely love that this family can just be an American family, and other families can see this and feel as a part of American culture as anyone else.

Also, my mom is just as cool as that- i’ll do you one better than beatboxing- she’s a DJ! turntables, vinyl, and all. aww.”

8 Asians also blogged the ad

“I think this was the first time I’ve seen an Asian American simply portrayed as the normal, all-American family for a major nationwide brand. To many, this may be making something out of nothing, but for those who actually pay attention to such things, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised.”

Wow. That’s a lot of love from cultural critics who appreciated Shannon and Target. It made us think and sparked a great discussion. We talked about the fact that the spot didn’t appear to be targeting Asians specifically. We talked about the extra care we take with diverse casting and developing non-stereotypical insights. We asked ourselves if we’re doing enough as strategists to seek out perspectives like these to challenge our assumptions and shape how we approach our work. We all agreed that we were surprised by the passionate love for Shannon. To some she’s just a mom. To others she’s a breakthrough.

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