Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers
Shalini Shankar is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. She is the author of Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley, also published by Duke University Press.
This chapter focuses on semiotic dimensions of ethnic and linguistic representation in advertisements. It links theoretical discussions of “brand” to the semiotics of representation, including “qualisigns” and aspects of translation. The chapter elaborates on Asian American advertising concepts of “in-culture” and “in-language” message creation by exploring a process Asian American advertising executives called “transcreation,” the work of adapting “general market” or mainstream advertising’s brand identities for Asian American audiences. It also examines how ad executives use concepts of narrative and storytelling to construct message and convey brand. Ethnographic analysis of lexical items, balancing in-language and English elements, and legal issues of trademark during “back-translation” illustrate the complexity of creative message production. By looking at the linguistic and material aspects of the process, the chapter illustrates how ad executives construct assemblages of diversity for Asian Americans and general market audiences.