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 examines the tensions that arise between ad executives and their corporate clients about their creative work. Concepts of “affect,” “race,” and the culture of workplaces in the “new economy” provide a foundation for analysis of interaction about advertising approaches and concepts. “Intercultural spaces” form zones of value for demonstrating expertise and authority. The chapter presents different examples of affect and expertise, including the use of linguistic registers, the process of training novice ad executives, and presenting one’s skill set and heritage as a basis on which to make broader claims about racial, ethnic, and linguistic knowledge. It also underscores the way ad executives make concepts integral to Asian cultures and languages accessible to their clients, at times in ways that are less than ideal. These processes are linked to “racial naturalization” of Asian Americans and contribute to managing race and ethnicity in the new economy.