Poll of Asian American Ad Pros Shows Majority Have Encountered Pandemic Bias

Adweek and Fishbowl partnered on survey revealing close to 80% experiencing issues

Asian American ad and marketing professionals offered recommendations to leaders on how to support employees in crisis. Fishbowl, Adweek
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Key insights:

As the coronavirus spreads through communities, hate continues to be a troubling trend—and the results of a poll in partnership with Fishbowl reveal disheartening data. Over 70% of Asian Americans working in advertising and marketing say they have encountered anti-Asian bias since the pandemic began.

The survey included verified members of two of the workplace water cooler chat app’s “bowls”: the Asians in Advertising bowl and the Minorities in Marketing bowl. Members of each group were asked the question, “Have you or someone you know experienced bias due to being Asian American during the coronavirus pandemic?” A community chat in the Asians in Advertising bowl resulted in users sharing more detailed anecdotes, and similar discussions were monitored in other groups on the app.


The survey took place for about a week, with over 250 industry professionals responding. In the Asians in Advertising bowl, 77.8% said they or someone they know have experienced bias during the coronavirus pandemic due to being Asian American. In the Minorities in Marketing bowl, 73% said the same.

Across the board, the results show a disturbing pattern: Asian American ad pros are experiencing a sudden wave of racism related to the virus, and many are living with the fear of being harassed or attacked.

How Asian American creatives are responding to a wave of hate

Attacks on Asian Americans spiked after the coronavirus arrived on U.S. shores. The first cases of the COVID-19 disease were discovered in Wuhan, China—leading President Trump to insistently refer to the pandemic as the “Chinese virus.” Many of the hate incidents involved some reference to the coronavirus. In other cases, such as when the Asian American head of a New York hospital emergency department told The New York Times he was harassed in the parking lot of a Home Depot while buying supplies for his staff, the underlying motive is crystal clear.

Multicultural marketing firms and Asian American creatives have responded to the racism crisis just as quickly with campaigns like #WashTheHate and Racism Is Contagious, while brands and major ad agencies have remained relatively silent. 

“These hate crimes are why Asian American advertising agencies have taken this matter into our own hands as it impacts our community’s safety and lives,” said Jay Kim, president of the Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF). “We hope other advertising associations and multicultural advertising [and] marketing groups join us in taking action. In this crucial time, ad industry leaders can prove that they really are inclusive and practice diversity inclusion by supporting Asian American anti-discrimination efforts.”

The Fishbowl app allows users to speak frankly under relative anonymity. Fishbowl CEO Matt Sunbulli said the issues raised in the app’s bowls allow for more transparency and accountability across the industries users work in.

“The D&I communities on Fishbowl are extremely active, offering a safe space for all professionals from different genders, ages, races, sexual orientations and levels of economic privilege to share their thoughts and experiences with an audience that empathizes and cares,” Sunbulli said. 

Advertising professionals living—and working—in fear

Random, organic conversations frequently sprout up in unexpected places on the app. At the same time that Adweek’s poll was live for members of the Asians in Advertising and Minorities in Marketing bowls, a separate conversation in a consulting bowl revealed rising anxieties about potentially becoming the victim of an anti-Asian attack.


Even among ad pros who haven’t directly experienced harassment related to the pandemic, there is a growing sense of fear that they could become targets.  Bonnie Wan, head of brand strategy at GS&P, told Adweek she’s taken the safety step of preparing her children.

“Though I have not personally experienced any direct anti-Asian racism, I have sat down and talked to my four kids about its rise,” Wan said. “This isn’t a conversation any parent wants to have with their kids. Sadly, it’s one that all parents of color are still forced to have.”

"This isn’t a conversation any parent wants to have with their kids. Sadly, it’s one that all parents of color are still forced to have.”
Bonnie Wan, head of brand strategy, GS&P

@MaryEmilyOHara maryemily.ohara@adweek.com Mary Emily O'Hara is a diversity and inclusion reporter. They specialize in covering LGBTQ+ issues and other underrepresented communities.