Bill Imada, whose Los Angeles consulting firm advises companies reaching out to the Asian market, feels that American companies are reluctant to use Asian Americans as spokespersons. "People like Kristi Yamaguchi don't represent, at least with marketers, the wholesome all-American image," says Imada. "The people making decisions in advertising, public relations, and marketing are, for the most part, white males who are most comfortable dealing with, and talking to, other white people."
Imada says he's been told by countless companies, from banks to insurance companies to soft-drink makers, that they don't want Asians in their ads because they're fearful of alienating their mainstream -- read: white -- customers. "They're afraid they might lose shares in the general market because there are certain images associated with their products, like Mom, apple pie, and America, and advertisers don't want to jeopardize that," says Imada. "Advertisers weren't exactly banging down Yamaguchi's door to give her endorsements."