'I am Asian' campaign elicits mixed reviews

BY CECILLY TAN
For the Daily
Published May 23, 2004

McDonald’s strategy of reaching out to the Asian Pacific
American community through a website seems to generate more
confusion among Asians than a craving for a Big Mac.

The campaign, titled “I am Asian,” includes a
website, www.i-am-asian.com, features pictures of Asian Americans
enjoying burgers and soda on the main page and attempts to
integrate American life with Asian culture.

“From high fashion to high tech, from Asian Pacific
American hip hop to haute cuisine, we’re weaving the threads
of our culture into the fabric of everyday American life,”
the website states.

IW Group, a public relations firm that helps its clients target
Asian communities, developed the McDonald’s website. Their
website claims to create “culturally-sensitive, relevant
advertising that creates opinion and behavior change.”

Representatives from McDonald’s could not be reached for
comment.

The McDonald’s website also includes links leading to
information about the different Asian ethnicities, key figures in
Asian American history and the testimonies of current Asian
Americans working for the fast food giant.

The website also pays tribute to Asian Pacific American
heritage. One link greets visitors with “Happy Chinese New
Year,” followed by a description of the holiday. Another link
is “McDonald’s Celebrates Asian and Pacific Islander
American Culture.” Here visitors can read about holidays and
festivals in various Asian countries, selected “to show
diversity in cultures and holidays.”

McDonald’s attempt resonated positively with some students
in APA organizations. LSA Sophomore Mary Hong, treasurer of the
Korean Student Association, described the website as
“random” but said that the McDonald’s intention
to reach out to Asian Americans was good.

Business graduate Jonathan Wu said McDonald’s website was
“fun” and did a good job of relating McDonald’s
products to the everyday life of Asians.

Some Asian students, however, were concerned with some phrases
on the website that may promote stereotypes about Asian American
students.

“Whether we’re sipping green tea or enjoying a Big
Mac sandwich, we’re helping make the magic mix called America
become even richer,” the website states.

“Not every Asian sips green tea.” LSA sophomore
Teresa Wang said.

Nursing student Kimberly Lai also expressed concerns about
stereotypes in the website.

“The website makes all Asians sound like they’re
from poor areas of the world. The part about living in high fashion
and high tech in the U.S. (ignores the fact that) many Asian
countries are as advanced as the United States.”

She also said that as an Asian American, her perception about
McDonald’s remains unchanged because the website is just
another advertisement.

“This McDonald’s website makes me wonder how much
research they have done on Asians,” she said.

LSA senior Abigail Clark said that the McDonald’s
Corporation’s intention was well placed in trying to bring
attention to Asian Americans. But she added that the content of the
website was not complete in its presentation of Asian culture and
focused too much on Asian holidays.

“I think that most holidays are a bit minor in the overall
look at a culture because there’s so much more to Asian
cultures than what is described in those little blurbs,” she
said. Clark said that McDonald’s should put some more thought
and effort into the website.”

McDonald’s has websites targeting African-American and
Latino communities as well. These sites can only be accessed
through the McDonald’s website but the “I am
Asian” site has a separate domain.

A link titled “365Black” features Venus and Serena
Williams in commercials and print ads to “Celebrate Black
History Everyday.” “LoMcXimo” leads to
information about Latino musicians and advertises upcoming
concerts.