Those Ethnics All Look Alike

While reading this week’s Jewish Journal (the main LA Jewish paper), I was pleasantly surprised to see a sponsored article about health in the classifieds section. Titled “A Doctor’s Word: Health and Wealth are Earned, Not Won,” the article was by Tat S. Lam, MD, who is a family practitioner at Kaiser Permanente here in Southern California.

Upon reading the ad, I realized that it was the result of a poor decision by a media buyer (or an inexperienced marketing person assigned this task). The article would not have been so out of place had it not been so clearly written for a Chinese audience. Sentences like “As the Year of the Boar begins, I wish you good health and prosperity!” and “Talk with your doctor about how to make healthy choices in this New Year” are undoubtedly geared toward those celebrating the Chinese New Year. While Jews are known for liking Chinese food, we had our own New Year back in September, and we definitely do not celebrate a year dedicated to a pig.

The bottom of the article, in tiny print, states, “This advertorial is part of a monthly series for New America Media’s ethnic media partners written by Kaiser Permanente physicians based on their experiences. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and produced by the NAM InfoWire.”

I think it’s wonderful that Kaiser is developing health information targeted to the many different ethnic communities that live in the Southland. But to publish these very specific ads for general consumption makes no sense. It’s as if someone at Kaiser said, “We have to show our commitment to diversity. Quick, send these ads out to all the ethnic media!” Not only is it a waste of money, but by not making themselves relevant to readers the first time, they risk having their intended audience tune them out the next time, even if targeted appropriately.

Lumping all “ethnic” media categories together makes as much sense as assuming that all Asian ethnicities can be reached with a one-size-fits-all approach (do Japanese Americans care that it is the Chinese New Year?).

I do applaud Kaiser’s efforts to customize their content for various ethnic communities (even if the 5-point or so font size was so small that half the population cannot read it), but the next part of the equation is to make sure that the ads are placed in appropriate media.

To my Chinese friends, shana tova! Oops, I mean gung hay fat choy!


  1. One should note that while it seems to be commonly referred to as “Chinese” New Year, it is the Lunar New Year, which many Asian cultures follow, not just the Chinese.

  2. Thanks for letting me know. In any case, it is not celebrated in all Asian countries, such as Japan.

  3. I am sure this is an example of an over-zealous media buying company buying a spot in every print press available.

    I have to wonder what the ROI was for this particular posting for this media?

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