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Interview with the People Involved with the Commercial
Insights on Diary Queen's Insight on Commitment to Excellence and Diversity
"Look for the best possible talent and strive for diversity whenever appropriate."


US ASIANS: Have you seen any other American mainstream commercials (i.e. such as the "Calgon Commercial" - the "Ancient Chinese Secret" commercial and recent examples such as Coca Cola, Oreo, Oscar Meyer, T-Mobile, Cingular, GM, Intel, New York Times, MasterCard, Nintendo, Levitz/Seaman, Wachovia, Acuvue, HP, New Navy and Robitussin) - that was a trail-blazing commercial during its time that featured two Asian/Asian Pacific Americans in a completely American setting?

RYUN YU: No - but it is great that they're out there!

US ASIANS: What is your assessment of the current status of mono-ethnic theaters such as the Asian theaters, the black theaters and the Hispanic theaters?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: At first I was very resistant to the idea of mono-ethnic theatres because I thought it limited actors and placed them in the very same box they were trying to escape.

But now since I have worked more and more with these organizations, I truly see that they serve a particular purpose to provide a creative outlet for expression that might go undeveloped otherwise.

It creates a safe, supportive environment for creativity and sometimes becomes a source to find qualified artists of a certain ethnicity.

RYUN YU: I've only examined the Asian-American theaters . . . . we are in a period of flux.

The older Japanese Americans, that seemed to be the principal audience for East West Players, is getting older - and because of out-marriage rate, the next generation coming up doesn't seem to be as strong…

Lodestone is banking on a community of Asian/Asian Pacific Americans who crave entertainment that reflects themselves…

As to artistically - I think that we're still finding our stride…

US ASIANS: Since you've only examined the "Asian" mono-ethnic theater scene (i.e. OPM, Lodestone Theater, East West Theater, 2nd Generation, Pork Fried Theater, etc.), does it still effectively address an artistic apartheid situation, in which a minority effectively controls the cultural expression of all the other groups within an ever-increasing plurality society?

RYUN YU: No. Each theater has relative freedom to say what they want - whether or not people are interested in what they're saying…

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: For sure I've seen more commercials that feature one Asian/Asian Pacific American; H&R Block, Office Depot, and Twix just to name a few. But I really haven't seen very many commercials that feature two Asian American actors exclusively like the Dairy Queen commercial.

US ASIANS: In the final analysis of living in the U.S.'s "hyphenated society" at this time, has being Asian (where you are telegraphing your identity through your physical characteristics) provided you the ability to explore and create without boundaries?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Realizing the boundaries and limitations I face as and actor, I try my best to see the glass half full and place more responsibility on myself than others. Even if that means I have to work ten times harder than the next actor to get the part then that's what I have to do. Sometimes it is hard not to get discouraged but if it came easy, we wouldn't have anything to talk about right?

RYUN YU: No, but boundaries are often a great help to creativity. It has pushed me, daunted me at times, but made me what I am today. It has given me more fight than I would've had otherwise…

US ASIANS: What will it take for the general public and Hollywood to accept "blind-casting" choices such as your participation in the Daisy Queen commercial - along with other examples such as Jonathan Pryce playing an Asian character, James Earl Jones can playing Italian characters and B. D. Wong playing a Jewish character?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Like anything else you might be taken off guard at first but with time and more exposure you become more and more accustomed to it. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to utilize "blind-casting" and the public will be exposed to more diversity in all types of media.

RYUN YU: When they are really effective, and deliver something artistically, something of value. If we can prove that these things intrigue the public ( or that the talent of the actor trumps the ethnicity of the actor) then we are home free.

US ASIANS: Do you feel that when a commercial displays a group of people representing the consumers of the general public, that Asian/Asian Pacific Americans should be represented?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: I think we should be considered but I don't feel that we are automatically entitled.

US ASIANS: Do you feel that there should be commercials that specifically targets Asian/Asian Pacific American consumers should be presented on American television, since this is being done with the Black and Hispanic communities?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Sure, if that is the market they are trying to target.

US ASIANS: Does Dairy Queen know what percentage of their customer base is from the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities (separately and/or part of their general promotion) and what are their target goals for the just-mentioned fast-growing consumers?

MICHAEL KELLER: No we don't. Actually, we don't know much about the ethnic diversity of our current customers and we don't' ask that many questions about it. There is sort of a universal love for treats and fast food and we haven't really gotten too deep as a marketer into marketing to the various important ethnic groups in the country. And so we don't' have a goal either, except that we'd like customer of all nationalities enjoy our treats and our food and visit our stores.

US ASIANS: What would you say the awareness of Dairy Queen within the Asian/Asian Pacific American/Multi-ethnic consumers differ from your company's awareness within the general public?

MICHAEL KELLER: I don't know. I assume it would vary by market and given how large the population is. Because the DQ brand enjoys universal awareness, I would assume it is virtually universal throughout all of our customer groups as well.

US ASIANS: With companies (such as Dairy Queen) that have a policy of "blind-casting" that places a greater priority on talent, what reasons could be a contributing factor on why there are not more Asian/Asian Pacific American actors being utilized - could it be that the talent pool is not big enough (as the result of culture restrictions, etc.), that the available actors ( generally) are not as qualified, that they do not have the proper agent/management/focus/drive to take advantage of these situations and/or they do not have the necessary/required "connections" to capitalize on these opportunities since actors such as Lea Salonga (click HERE for more info on her struggles) is having problems finding work?

US ASIANS: Do you feel that the general public's perception of the "Asian Mystique" (click HERE to read Sheridan Prasso's definition) and the entertainment industry's "Yellow Ceiling" (click HERE for more info) is still a hindrance to American companies effectively addressing the Asian/Asian Pacific American consumers - despite the excellent efforts of companies such as Dairy Queen?

MICHAEL KELLER: I don't know that I can answer that, nor speak for the general public regarding the Asian Mystique.

However, I know that as a perceived minority group in the U.S. such as Latinos, or African Americans, there are lots of issues or perceptions that come with being perceived as a minority group.

Those didn't really factor into any of our decision making. We felt like this was a population that is very well represented throughout North America and in particular in a lot of key Dairy Queen markets for us particularly in the East and West coasts.

Given that these are very important customers of ours and an important group in North America (particularly in our culture), it seemed quite natural to us have these two actors represent us in our commercial. It seemed like a very good fit for us.

RYUN YU: To access APA consumers - yes. To access the general public, certain cultural stereotypes must be taken into account. Not ignored.

One of the big triumphs of African-Americans trying to make a splash into entertainment was to make being black a cool thing. They did not ignore, did not try to pass themselves off as exactly the same as white people.

I think that we misstep when we want people to see us as color-neutral. We are different ( culturally, physically - I'm not talking about the soul here) and we need to embrace and use these differences - subtle though they may be.


Unfortunate Choices
US ASIANS: Do you feel that your (Ryun) participation starts dispelling the Asian male stereotypes often seen (past & present) in the American media and defined in Jeff Adachi's film "Slanted Screen?"

MICHAEL KELLER: I don't perceive that stereotype, so I really don't know. To me, Ryan was just doing a heck of a job acting and I thought he was funny as hell - as did the Grey team. If that is different or dispels the stereotype, great…lucky strike.

However, I'm not sure I can comment on it because I don't necessarily perceive the stereotype. I just thought Ryan was a cool guy and a great actor.

RYUN YU: In some ways. My character carries a lot of the energy of the piece, and definitely a major part of the humor. That is cool.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: It doesn't just dispel Asian male stereotypes but all gender stereotypes both male and female in general. That's what is so great about it.

RYUN YU: We need to bring up a community of writers and directors along with us. Why should white people continue to write roles for us? They might venture into the exotic, but why would they want to make the kind of bread and butter, consistent, year after year work for us? What would be the incentive? We cannot succeed alone - and indeed one success, one breakthrough movie, a bit of fame, some money - these are not enough. We need to develop a consistent stream of vibrant work, and we need to continue to try and hit a larger vein with that work each time. We need to get so good at what we're doing that we cannot be ignored.

MICHAEL KELLER: I'm not sure I can speculate. I don't know the talent industry that well and how it is structured nor do I know how much Asian talent is represented there and how it gets itself represented in casting calls and auditions.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Those are all contributing factors and it baffles me that even more established actors like Lea Salonga are having problems finding work. And if they can't find work than it's even harder for an even less established actor like me (sigh). The commercial world is starting to open up but most other avenues remain limited. I can only hope that with persistence and determination we will be able to create more opportunities for ourselves in the future.

US ASIANS: Has Dairy Queen ever been a corporate sponsors for events (i.e. Award Shows, community organizations' annual meetings, entertainment events, etc.) within the Asian/Asian Pacific American and/or Multi-ethnic community events in the past - if so which ones? If not, what type of events would Dairy Queen entertain?

MICHAEL KELLER: I don't think we have been nor have we ever gone hunting for them either. To the extent that we found and event in a given market that made sense for the brand, that made sense for our target audience and made sense economically for our franchisees in that market, we would entertain that. In terms of blind casting, we are blind promoting. We just look for great ideas that make sense for our brand and our customers.

US ASIANS: How should the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities/consumers embrace the Dairy Queen commercial that features two APA actors?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Hopefully they will continue to be supportive and provide positive reinforcement.

RYUN YU: However they want to. If it makes them laugh, charms them, makes them want to eat Dairy Queen - awesome. If they get annoyed by it, don't think it's funny - then they should express that. I'm not a big fan of "should."

US ASIANS: What can the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities/consumers/media do to work together with Dairy Queen and Grey to continue their efforts and/or supporting your "blind-casting" position that extends beyond just buying Diary Queen's food/drinks?

MICHAEL KELLER: Nothing can or needs to be done from an organized or a movement standpoint. Probably the best thing the Asian community can do if it likes what it saw here is do what we'd hope the advertising would do to begin with which is to encourage them to visit a DQ, with friends and family. Have a great treat or burger and fries, have a great overall experience and become as loyal a customer as they would like to be. It seems to me that their loyalty to DQ and their visitation to DQ would speak volumes to how they feel about having seen Asian Americans so well represented in our advertising.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: It's great for publications such as yours to address these issues and generate a discussion to help us bring these issues to the forefront. It is important to be vocal and prominent in the minds of those who are in a position to help further these efforts.

RYUN YU: Support their local Asian artists. Fund their films. When an artist puts something out there that makes an impact, new imaginative space is created for us in this society…this will benefit APA's in untold ways.

US ASIANS: Has any Asian/Asian Pacific American and/or Multi-ethnic organizations have honored any of you for your respective creative efforts, along with your stance on "blind-casting (beyond the two Cannes Gold Lions, Addys (Best of Show) Andys, Clios, CA, D&AD, Ad Age's Best and Adweek's listing of the 100 Best Commercials of the Century that's been seen on 21 cable networks such as MTV, Comedy Central, ESPN and USA Network - along with ABC, NBC and CBS for Jonathan)?


JONATHAN RODGERS: We have yet to receive any honors from multi-ethnic organizations. I personally have received the "People's Choice of Hong Kong" award for McDonald's advertising in 1997.
To Continue, Click HERE
To explore the various specific aspects of DQ/Dairy Queen's "Dreams" commercial such as the backgrounds of the people involved, blind-casting policies involved, companies' official position on diversity, Dairy Queen's food products/promotion (i.e. Grill & Chill, Apprentice 4 promo, DQ's online "Apprentice Contest," etc.) and their successful expansion into Asia, visit the various links listed below.
Acting in the Commercial Addressing Stereotypes Asian Pacific American Communities Asian Pacific American Consumers
Background Info Blind-Casting & Dairy Queen Company's Position on Diversity Contest Background
Creating the Commercial Creative Background Dairy Queen Dairy Queen & Apprentice 4
Dairy Queen & Apprentice Program Dairy Queen & Diversity Dairy Queen in Asia Diversity
Grill and Chill Job Descriptions & Responsibilities Jonathan Rodgers' Bio Killer Bee Commercial
Mono-Ethnic Theater Parting Words Ryun Yu's Bio Shireen Mui's Bio


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