Asian American Company Wins Multicultural Agency Award – AsAmNews
By Alan Oda, Editor of AsAmNews
An ad agency is usually hired to tell someone else’s story. This time, it’s an agency with Asian American roots with a proud story to tell. The IW Group, a multi-platform advertising agency, can now boast of being the recipient of the 2022 Multicultural Agency Award presented by Ad agethe best advertising publication.
In presenting the honor, the publication acknowledged that the IW Group “has historically been focused on reaching Asian audiences, (they are now) expanding to reach broader demographics – with strategies that continue to affect Asian consumers”.
“Being named to the A-List is one of advertising’s most prestigious honors. This recognition reflects game-changing creativity, bold leadership and the ability to steer the industry in new directions,” said declared Ad Age when describing the price.
Nita Song, Chief Momentum Officer and President of IW Group, is fully aware of the cachet of winning this award.
“Ad age is the the wall street journal of our business. There were 300 agencies that submitted nominations, that’s quite an accolade to receive. It’s not the first time the agency has been recognized, with past honors including the 2021 Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF) Marketing of the Year, the grand prize winner of the PR News Platinum Awards 2021, among many other awards.
It was about 30 years ago when advertisers saw the benefit of targeting Hispanic and African American communities. “Asian consumers started to get noticed then,” Song said. Early advertisers included long-distance carriers, such as AT&T, which offered discounted plans for overseas calls to China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. They were soon followed by the Bank of America offering services to recent immigrants needing to open accounts. Insurance companies also started advertising to Asian families who needed coverage, including their business needs. “Then Anheuser-Busch realized that its success in the Hispanic market could also happen in the Asian market,” Song said, which opened the doors to a new market.
The 2020 census indicated that the Asian population is approaching 20 million, with growth still coming from immigration. “Asian consumers are a very attractive target for advertisers, as many are immigrants who need to find accommodation, buy a car – many are already arriving with higher education degrees and experience.”
A significant amount of advertising is offered in consumers’ native language, but this is changing. “The second generation is an almost different target. Language is not a problem, but they are still a single market,” Song said. There are also many within the Asian community who may have limited finances, but they also “need to buy cars, food and other goods…we need to balance our efforts to reach all budgets.” “.
Song provided the story of the IW group. “Bill Imada (now Director of Connectivity) started out as a public relations firm, building relationships in the Asian American community.” Imada had a client who asked him to handle their marketing as well. He then built the advertising department, “and in two years (Imada) landed five major clients, including Walmart and McDonald’s,” Song said. Current customer base includes Lexus, Warner Brothers, Disney, City of Hope, Marvel, Bank of the West, Sony Pictures, Northwestern Mutual, Southern California Edison, Beam Suntory, Nielsen, Apple TV, Lion’s Gate, and more.
“The Asian American consumer is looking for authenticity. They need to know that an advertiser cares about their community beyond special holidays like Lunar New Year. This is a smart consumer group, they want to know if an advertiser has genuine interest,” Song said. “We use what we call a ‘360° approach’, reaching out to the community via news and other sites as a holistic approach to reaching out. We advise our clients to connect with the consumer by supporting nonprofits and charities, using their influence to support their Asian American employees who become ambassadors for your product. This was especially important during the recent increase in hate crimes against Asians. The agency has created “washing away the hate” public service announcements to raise awareness of current events.
Two unique ideas help distinguish their success. One is what Song calls “the bullseye and beyond approach,” where they start by targeting a particular demographic and then expand and expand their reach to other markets.
“Success in one area can influence other segments – we’ve had impressive results with youth and the LGBTQ community.” A second insight is their efforts to reach people who identify as mixed race. “It’s not necessarily a separate market. We find that the influence of the diverse partner tends to be greater. They have a strong connection to their ethnic heritage, especially when it comes to entertainment and food. She again cited the 2020 census, which counted more than 4.7 million individuals who identified with Asian and another ethnic category.
Nita Song’s journey to leading the IW Group is a story in itself, laughing that she “grew up in the agency.” She started as a volunteer in a non-profit organization during high school, which eventually gave her different opportunities. She helped host an event for the Korean Grocers Association, where she met IW Group founder Imada. He was favorably impressed with Song, enough to ask her if she was interested in a job.
“It was a bit of a dream. I was getting paid for something I was already doing. She spent seven years working with Imada and her associates before moving to AT&T to build their Asian market strategy, which included hiring the IW Group.”It was valuable because I had a different experience as a client,” Song said after working at an internet start-up (where she again hired the IW Group) , she decided to return to the agency “that’s when IW wanted to expand its advertising agency efforts”.
“We consider Asian Americans to be great influencers, they are active on social media. They help influence buying decisions for beauty products, they are also prominent in posting reviews on Yelp, we believe that Asian Americans are now leading the trends,” Song said.
She sees a priority for the IW Group, now with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, to prioritize diversity in their recruitment. “It’s more than a question of ethnicity. You want workers with different backgrounds, we benefit from a creative mix of people. This has allowed us to come up with incredible ideas for reaching the American community in Asia-Pacific and beyond.
AsAmNews has Asian America at its heart. We are an all-volunteer effort made up of dedicated staff and interns. Discover our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider an internship, join our staff, or submit a story, or make a contribution.