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DECEMBER 2005 JOURNAL OF MACROMARKETING Asian Americans in Magazine Advertising: Portrayals of the “Model Minority” Charles R. Taylor, Stacy Landreth, and Hae-Kyong Bang Prior studies of portrayals of Asian Americans in advertising have found limited representation and portrayals that are skewed toward technology-based products, business and sci- ence magazines, and business settings and relationships. This article examines current Asian American portrayals. Find- ings indicate that, despite improved representation, stereo- typed portrayals persist. The “model minority” stereotype, which suggests that Asian Americans are hardworking, tech- nologically savvy, business oriented, successful, and well assimilated, is clearly reflected in advertising portrayals. Portrayals of Asian Americans in family and social contexts are seldom seen. Moreover, even magazines with high Asian American readership reflect the same stereotypes. Keywords: Asian Americans; advertising portrayals; expec- tancy theory; marketing to minorities; model minority F or many years, researchers have looked at both the mana- gerial and social impacts of advertising (Mittal 1994). Today, successful advertisers must recognize the diverse nature of the U.S. society (Tharp 2001). Lee, Williams, and LaFerle (2004) asserted that diversity, as represented in advertising, contributes to a more representative and inclusive society. Thus, from a macro perspective, it is important to look at the societalimpactsof advertisingportrayals of minority groups. Research on whether portrayals of Asian Americans have changed during the past decade is timely. Asian Americans represent a fast-growing market that is an increasing target for marketers. The Asian American population grew from 3.5 million in 1980 to 10.7 million by 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). Furthermore, continued growth is forecast, with the Asian American population projected to be 33.4 million, or 10 percent of the U.S. population, by 2050. In addition to pop- ulation growth, the increasing buying power of Asian Ameri- cans has contributed to theirgrowing attractiveness to market- ers. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, Asian Americans’ buying power rose to $254.6 billion in 2000, more than double its 1990 level. By 2007, Asian American buying power is expected to increase to $454.9 billion (Vence 2004), reinforcing the attractiveness of the group. Although the Asian American market clearly has gained more attention from marketers, questions about how the group is portrayed in advertising persist. Prior studies of por- trayals of Asian Americans have found that the group is largely underrepresented in both magazine and television advertising. In addition, the portrayals that do exist are gener- allystereotyped (Taylor and Lee1994; Taylor and Stern 1997; Mastro and Stern 2003; Bowen and Schmid 1997; Bang and Reece 2003). Of interest in this study is the issue of whether portrayals of Asian Americans in magazine ads have become
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