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Study: Less than 10% of brand visuals accurately depict Asian communities

Study: Less than 10% of brand visuals accurately depict Asian communities

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The APAC region is home to more than half of the world’s population, making it a critical player in media and advertising. However, the "Asian" experience is very often misrepresented, perpetuating possibly harmful stereotypes that can lead to gaps in the world’s understanding of the region. In fact, less than 10% of most popular visuals for Australasia, Japan, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan accurately represent Asian people and their lived experiences.

Instead, most used imagery tends to lean heavily towards perpetuating common stereotypes: depicting Asians as youthful, slender, possessing lighter skin tones, and predominantly portrayed in work‑related contexts. Furthermore, popular visuals remain similar in their underlying messages, styling, and emotion: often overly happy, and with little to no connection to each culture.

These were the results of Getty Images' “Inclusive Visual Storytelling for Asian Communities” report which aims at helping brands better expand and deepen Asian narratives.

“Despite the region's diversity, everyday images and videos that aim to capture Asian experiences often fall short, perpetuating harmful stereotypes or missing the mark entirely,” said Yuri Endo, creative insights manager at Getty Images.

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The report features different countries and provides local research about demographics, trends, underrepresented areas of diversity, and actionable strategies to combat stereotypes and promote inclusive representation.

Unfortunately, even in movies and TV shows, Asian characters are often relegated to smaller roles and subject to limiting clichés. For example, over a quarter of AAPI characters in the top 100 movies at the box office in 2019 were dead by the end of the movie, which perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Strikingly, three out of five also said that they feel they have been discriminated against based on body size, lifestyle choices, race, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, and sexuality.

These findings underscore the imperative for the media and advertising industry to not only recognise the intricate diversity and multidimensionality inherent in Asian cultures, but also to align with consumer expectations in delivering authentic and meaningful portrayals of Asian identities, according to Getty.

In the report, it was also found that four out of five consumers across the APAC region agree that simply increasing the representation of individuals from diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances within advertising and media is insufficient. The report goes on to state that companies also need to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures.

Brands and creators should also counter visual stereotypes by incorporating visuals that accurately depict the diverse Asian demographics across various intersections of identity. When choosing or creating visuals, it’s also about how they are visualised and how they reflect their true selves and lifestyles. Such authentic visual storytelling not only helps brands connect with their audiences but also changes the way Asians are perceived.

“By sharing these guidelines, the report takes a significant step towards helping brands serving APAC customers promote accurate and respectful portrayals of Asian communities, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and equitable visual landscape,” said Endo.

Changing stereotypes and acknowledging the intricate tapestry of Asian communities becomes crucial, added Getty in its report. Brands and media venturing into visual storytelling then must embrace the entirety of Asian ethnicities while faithfully reflecting their diverse identities and lifestyles, it added. 

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