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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: Acknowledging that Dairy Queen is in the process of expanding/extending/changing the general public's perception and/or "(360 degrees) branding," could you share where Dairy Queen started when you first arrived, where the company is at this time, what unique stories have been identified/utilized, your upcoming goals and/or your vision of where Dairy Queen will be in 2 to 3 years - along with how diversity and multiculturalism is incorporated?

RICK CUSATO: In general terms, our goal is evolve the image of DQ ( Dairy Queen) to a more contemporary brand that continues to be relevant in people's lives and to make DQ (Dairy Queen) more of a player in the QSR world, particularly in the food arena. Regarding, multiculturalism, I really don't think about it too much. This is a country of diverse and interesting peoples who make up what is America. All nationalities should be reflected in a company's communications because those are their customers.

US ASIANS: Recognizing that Grill and Chill, along with Treatworks ("Tweats-Only" concept stores that blend a sleek, new look with the feel of a traditional ice cream treat shop and offers an expanded treat menu that includes traditional DQ favorites, the Orange Julius® line of smoothies and fruit drinks, and new signature desserts and sundaes with its national rollout in 2007), are Dairy Queen's latest changes - which one of Dairy Queen's commercials will you be involved with where DQ will be exposing consumers within the general public (along with Asian/Multi-ethnic communities) their latest inventions?

MICHAEL KELLER: In the fall of 2001 DQ was really just beginning its potential journey toward business and brand performance improvement. Chuck Mooty, our current CEO, had been in his position for about a year and was steadily making changes to the structure and the talent within the structure at the company, laying out his vision for the future and encouraging existing and new teammates to pick up that vision and to begin to carry it forward through their team and throughout the system.

So it was really the beginning of a change process after a couple of decades of stagnation for the Dairy Queen brand and system. Now five years later we have significantly changed the organization strategy and the organization structure and the talent within the structure and have significantly increased the sales and profitability of the average Dairy Queen franchisee throughout North America.

What DQ Grill & Chill has to offer, great treats, great food, wonderful décor, a really pleasant atmosphere, a place conducive to dates, family, friends, whatever, I would image that to the degree that the Asian American likes those things we would love to see them in even greater numbers trying and hopefully enjoying an experience at DQ. DQ Grill & Chill is designed for anyone looking for a fun and friendly place for great food and treats.

RICK CUSATO: They'll be exposed based on the media we decide to use. TV will be used in the future

JONATHAN RODGERS: We have two new commercials coming out this fall for the DQ Grill & Chill concept. We go into production and will be shooting in about a month.

MICHAEL KELLER: In the fall of 2001 DQ was really just beginning its potential journey toward business and brand performance improvement. Chuck Mooty, our current CEO, had been in his position for about a year and was steadily making changes to the structure and the talent within the structure at the company, laying out his vision for the future and encouraging existing and new teammates to pick up that vision and to begin to carry it forward through their team and throughout the system. So it was really the beginning of a change process after a couple of decades of stagnation for the Dairy Queen brand and system. Now five years later we have significantly changed the organization strategy and the organization structure and the talent within the structure and have significantly increased the sales and profitability of the average Dairy Queen franchisee throughout North America.

In terms of incorporating diversity and multiculturalism at Dairy Queen, we don't necessarily have a specific strategy or white paper on how to treat the issue of diversity in our communication. However, we recognize the changing face of the U.S. and North America and the incredible importance of a large number of minority groups and their contributions to society and we're an American/North American brand that advertises nationally. Our stores are in every state in the U.S. and in every province in Canada and it seems increasingly more important to try to reflect multi-cultural and multi-faced North America as opposed to maybe what Dairy Queen was a long time ago which played to much more homogeneous and a much more narrower band of culture and ethnicity.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: I think as the public sees more and more commercials featuring Asian/Asian Pacific American actors it will hopefully become the norm rather than the exception.

US ASIANS: What are the goals of your company's revision for 1,000+ locations - franchises that will feature a significantly modernized look, a larger menu and an expanded "experiential" component of what customers see, smell and watch in the restaurant - that only serve treats called "Project Cornerstone?"

MICHAEL KELLER: We are in the process of testing the concept we call "TreatWorks" to ensure we have a brand and a consumer and economic model that works. If we were to vet that out, our goal would be to roll it out as rapidly as possible throughout our system.

US ASIANS: What were some of the immediately most beneficial and identified benefits of having the program's candidates create a promotional campaign that included a new character (i.e. Zip, Jeannie the Genie/Ginny The Blizzard Genie - a buxom, magical female with ice cream hair and the DQ logo prominently featured on her belt buckle that women would identify with as a fun friend, children would see as a magical maternal figure, and men would find sexy) for the Blizzard brand of Dairy Queen that appeal to kids, teenagers and senior citizens - along with other ideas that resulted after the program?

MICHAEL KELLER: It was a really good showcase for the DQ brand. We felt as a system that it reflected our return to a very favorable and visible return to the marketplace in consumer's minds. It had a really nice impact on Blizzard sales and a nice impact on traffic to our websites and membership in our Blizzard Fan Club. And it gave us a lot of important learning on the world of integrated marketing and product placement which will be very helpful for us going forward.

US ASIANS: Did the Black community's awareness that only the blonde, fair-skinned white women were selected for the high-profile work with the costume designers - while the other women were on the bench - strike a responsive chord within Dairy Queen's corporate and diversity management?

MICHAEL KELLER: We were totally separated from, and in a cone of silence, from the creative product that Mark Burnett productions assembled through its editorial process. We basically had no idea what was going on and that was part of the intent and have no way to explain why the female team made the decisions they did about who did what job or who did another. The way our episode and the other episodes unfolded, it looked like there were a lot of internal politics on the women's team and I am assuming the way they worked together as a team led them to decide who would go where and who would do what. But we had no expectations for it and no opinion of it once it happened.

US ASIANS: Could you share some information (i.e. where was it aired and/or seen - in addition to being on the Internet at, which marketplaces, etc.) on your company's own Mark Burnett Productions-directed apprentice search (focused on your Blizzard treat that capped a yearlong celebration of the treat's 20th anniversary) that was part of the promotional tie-in to the Donald Trump's show?

In addition to the $50,000 "signing bonus" and a year's worth of free Blizzards, the winner and three guests traveled to Los Angeles where the winner appeared in a Dairy Queen Blizzard commercial. In January 2006, they were be honored at Dairy Queen's franchisee exposition in Hawaii. They visited Dairy Queen headquarters in Minneapolis where the apprentice participated in the development of new Blizzard flavours.

All 25 semi-finalists will receive free Blizzards for a year and each of the web-posted finalists and received a $1,000 cash prize. The contest was opened to all U.S. and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec who were 18 years of age and older. Visit for more info..

As part of this promotion, Dairy Queen was featured in one of four online games in "The Apprentice" arcade collection. The Dairy Queen game is a free online flash game and available for free. The other 3 Legacy Interactive-developed games are downloadable for a fee at the following website -

Dairy Queen's appearance on "The Apprentice" and the subsequent Blizzard apprentice contest culminates a yearlong 20th birthday celebration of the Blizzard.

MICHAEL KELLER: Sure, that was really a lot of fun. It was fun to reach out to our loyal Blizzard customers and see who among them were crazy enough to spend a lot of time and energy to chase our prize. We saw some terrific creative material and met some fun people and are very, very pleased with our winner, Jackie Prescott. We've had a lot of fun with here since her winning and she has appeared in a variety of places in conjunction with her grand prize winnings. It's been fun to have a Blizzard Apprentice.

US ASIANS: Acknowledging your words that "We tapped into a creative way to leverage our appearance on 'The Apprentice' with a really fun and exciting promotion that reaches out all across North America" and "We're not the first to be on the show, but we are the first to tie in a promotion specifically built around the premise of the show. . . As a result, we are giving one lucky Blizzard customer out there the opportunity of a lifetime: to be our Blizzard apprentice" - could you share the great success/benefits that resulted in this effort? Will it be done again in the future and will your company be having similar efforts geared towards the fast-increasing Asian/Ethnic consumers - if so, could you share with our readers what they might expect?

MICHAEL KELLER: We don't know yet if we will have a second Apprentice. We're only three or four months into our first Apprentice. In terms of the Asian American community and what we are doing for them and whether or not we will feature other talent in our spots. All I can say is we have two simple criteria. Look for the best possible talent and strive for diversity whenever appropriate. Whether that may be more Asian Americans reflected in our advertising is just too soon to tell.

US ASIANS: Can the general public still view the submitted essays and videos online of the 25 contestants and/or 5 finalists?

MICHAEL KELLER: Unfortunately, no.

US ASIANS: Of the many contestants that applied, were there many multi-ethnic and/or Asian Pacific American applicants that registered within the United States - with the assumption that contest applicants in different countries were in a separate edition of the contest that utilized the appropriate language?

MICHAEL KELLER: It's hard to know. We had an awfully lot of people who applied. I think I remember seeing a nice, diverse representation across our whole customer base, but in terms of numbers, any specific instances, we didn't track that.

US ASIANS: How would you judge the response to your contest and when will the next edition by produced?

MICHAEL KELLER: It seemed like our Blizzard fan club members enjoyed the contest. We didn't specifically poll them to ask how they felt. However, if we were to do something like this again, we'd probably pull upon our learnings and even talk to some Blizzard Fan Club members to see if that would give us some insight as to how to help us go about round two.

US ASIANS: Considering that Asia has the largest number of stores (over 250 stores in 10 countries, with Thailand having over 170 franchises - its 100th store being the first outlet outside the United States to feature the fast-food operator's new logo, changed colour scheme and enlarged retail space as the result of being the fastest-growing marketplace & 2nd most profitable operating environment behind Canada), is/would this be an influential factor in addressing the Asian/Asian Pacific American consumers - especially since many immigrant parents have their children being raised in the U.S.?

MICHAEL KELLER: We have wonderful licenses and wonderful development momentum in a variety of international Asian markets which we plan to continue. If there ends up being some wonderful synergy between our activity there and what happens back here in North America is just a lucky strike extra. We're just going to continue to do what we think is right creatively and strategically, from a customer standpoint here and hopefully develop like mad in Asia and if the two meet and there is some really nice synergy, that's just great.

US ASIANS: Recognizing that DQ and Orange Julius has stores in Thailand, China (opened in 1992 with 40 stores), Singapore, Phillipines, Cambodia, South Korea, Guam, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia - what is IDQ plans to expand its Asian presence over the next few years besides Shanghai in 2005?

MICHAEL KELLER: Although I can't get into any real specifics regarding this issue, we are meeting with a lot of success in China right now. We have some very capable and well financed aggressive licensees. It is our intention to continue aggressive but strategic development wherever we can internationally in some of these key international markets like China.

US ASIANS: Considering Dairy Queen's recent participation in the Franchising China Conference & Exhibition, what are your company's future goals in China/Asia in exposing mainland China entrepreneurs to franchise opportunities - considering that China's franchising market is growing at an average annual rate of 54 percent while anticipating that by 2010, franchises are expected to account for 30 percent of China's retail sales?

MICHAEL KELLER: Grow * Grow * Grow.

US ASIANS: What three words would describe the following:
MICHAEL KELLER: Unexpected * Entertaining * Memorable Father of three…..enough said!!
RYUN YU: Funny Ass Commercial Persistent * Blessed * Striving
SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Humorous * Memorable * Unconventional Loyal * Hard-Working * Hopeful
JONATHAN RODGERS: Insightful * Funny * Twisted Insightful * Funny * Twisted
RICK CUSATO: Fun * Creative * Delicious  

US ASIANS: How would you describe in one sentence, the most enjoyable and/or memorable time in participating with the commercial?

MICHAEL KELLER: Two moments that that stick out for me are; first, when I saw Ryan on the casting reel and he was doing something very, very funny with his arms as he was celebrating the news the doctor was sharing with him about the birth of his child and that was a fun and memorable moment - just great physical comedy…and something we didn't expect to see - certainly not during the casting.

The second moment would be the initial surprise and laughter when we watched the first rough cut of the "Dreams" commercial spot to see how good everything came together in terms of the performance and the overall feel of the commercial.

RYUN YU: Acting my ass off and feeling like it was landing.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: I have to say that seeing pregnant man dressed only in a hospital gown and socks screaming for his life was pretty memorable.

JONATHAN RODGERS: This occurred when I was watching another person viewing the commercial on television at a skating rink and the resulting laughter.


A personal word and thanks are extended to the people interviewed - Michael Keller, Jonathan Rodgers, Richard Cusato, Shireen Nomura Mui and Ryun Yu - in taking the time from their respective busy schedules to share invaluable insights, passion and reasons behind the creation of DQ's successful and trend-setting "Dreams" commercial.

A note of appreciation are extended to the other people that helped such as the DQ's Dean Peters (for Michael Keller), Sandy Joseph (for Ryun Yu), Lawrence Har/John Kolinofky - along with Eddie Mui (for Shireen Nomura Mui), Mary McGoldrick/Grey (for Jonathan Rodgers - considering his busy work schedule and other responsibilities and Richard Cusato) - for coordinating access to needed information.

In conclusion, we wanted to compliment DQ/Dairy Queen/Michael Keller's position to "Look For the Best Possible Talent and Strive for Diversity Whenever Appropriate" and Grey Worldwide/Jonathan Rodgers' casting policy that their philosophy is "Simple, We Hire the Best Talent."

It is a position that US Asians supports and hopes will be seen in greater frequency in upcoming commercials seen on American television - especially considering the business success (more sales) that has resulted from Dairy Queen's recent commercials.

It is our hope that other companies will follow and/or try to copy Dairy Queen's success by following DQ's policy/method of "blind-casting" (that includes Asian/Asian Pacific American actors).

We look forward to providing a high-profile and recognition of other companies that places a high value of utilizing the best talent - that can only be accomplished by "blind-casting" - especially since it is also "good business."

To Return to the Beginning, 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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