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Representation Matters: Engagement, Awareness and Likability of Asian American Content

3 minute read | May 2017

In an ever-changing environment in which Asian Americans are having a greater influence in the marketplace, a recent study by Nielsen examined the engagement and impact of Asian American actors among Asian Americans as well as the general population. The study found that shows featuring Asian American characters resonate not only with Asian American viewers but also with mass audiences.

The study used results from Nielsen’s TV Brand Effect to determine program engagement—a measure of how well people remember what happened in a TV show they watched. Engagement for a range of shows with Asian American characters and plotlines was higher among both Asian Americans and the general population compared to each segment’s norms, indicating that these shows resonate with not only Asian American viewers, but non-Asian viewers as well.

In fact, shows with predominantly Asian American casts or Asian American leads, like ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” or “Dr. Ken,” performed well above average among the general population. This is a key value proposition for broadcasters and advertisers, because Nielsen data also shows that the memorability of ads aired during a program increase in conjunction with higher program engagement.  

In another analysis using Nielsen N-Score, most of the Asian American actors from the shows above, as well as other Asian American actors, performed at or near the Television/Film average in “awareness” among the general population, not just Asians. However, almost all of the actors outperformed the average in “likeability” among the same groups.

In fact, many of these Asian American actors have widespread appeal among both Asian American audiences and the general market. For example, about three-fourths (74%) of Aziz Ansari’s fans are white, and over one-third (35%) are Millennials. His fans also skew higher income, with about half (51%) making more than $75,000 annually.

Despite lower awareness, Hannah Simone, who appears in “New Girl,” outperforms the norm in likeability and also appeals to key audiences. About two-fifths (43%) of Simone’s fans are under the age of 35 and a majority (93%) are non-Asian, demonstrating that Asian American characters and casts can appeal to mass audiences.

“These findings are especially meaningful, because they dispel the misconception that Asian American celebrities lack mass appeal,” said Chris Louie, senior vice president, Nielsen, and executive sponsor of the compnay’s Asian Affinity Link employee resource group. “In fact, Nielsen data shows that the opposite is true: these actors are universally well liked and well positioned to appeal to not just Asian audiences but the general market, too.”


Nielsen TV Brand Effect

Nielsen TV Brand Effect is a syndicated, in-flight, ad and programming optimization solution that collects insights in a natural, real-world viewing environment. TV Brand Effect’s Program Engagement analysis measures program effectiveness and identifies high-value programming that fosters ad memorability for advertisers.

Nielsen NScore

NScore is Nielsen’s syndicated Talent Analytics application that enables users to evaluate the endorsement or casting potential for personalities across various industries. NScore aligns fans of celebrities with their affinity towards specific behaviors, brands or media consumption. By polling U.S. consumers on a weekly basis on specific attributes, awareness, and sentiment, NScore provides metrics that help inform a personality’s ability to move products, enhance brand reputation and add value to content.

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