#TakeOutHate: Inside an MSG maker’s campaign to support Asian restaurants

…with help from celebrities Margaret Cho, Jenny Yang and Harry Shum Jr.

Campaign: #TakeOutHate
Company: Ajinomoto
Agency partners: Edelman (PR, social, media outreach), Quiet Light Communications (website development) 
Duration: May 2020

In response to rising xenophobia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSG maker Ajinomoto partnered with Asian celebrities and influencers on a social media campaign encouraging consumers to support local Asian restaurants. 

In January, Ajinomoto released another campaign centered on persuading Merriam-Webster to update its entry for “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” 

A social media-led effort, #RedefineCRS focused on combating negative stereotypes encapsulated by the Merriam-Webster entry for Chinese restaurant syndrome, which includes symptoms resulting from “eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate.”

In March, as the spread of the coronavirus rippled through the U.S., fueling anti-Asian American sentiment, the time felt ripe for a second campaign combating xenophobia, said Jimmie Stone, chief creative officer for New York and Latin America at Edelman.

Planning for the campaign began in late March. Edelman wanted to go beyond simply tapping into conversations taking place on social media by allowing users to take concrete action. As restaurants closed across the country - with Chinese restaurants closing at significantly higher rates than establishments serving other cuisines - the team settled on a social media campaign encouraging people to show their “support for Asian businesses across the country and hopefully help the Asian restaurants that we all love to survive and thrive,” Stone said. 

Edelman helped Ajinomoto to create a campaign video. It launched, along with social media efforts, on May 21, 2020. 

To spread the word, the company partnered with a number of celebrities and influencers, including Jenny Yang, Margaret Cho, Harry Shum Jr., and Gail Simmon. 

“We were very intentional about leveraging earned media and paid social promotion to drive awareness of the campaign and inspire consumer action,” Stone said.

Influencers shared the campaign on their social media channels, and were available for media interviews. 

View this post on Instagram

Asian restaurants in the U.S. are facing xenophobia & fighting to stay open. Join me to #TakeOutHate by ordering in today. As we celebrate #AAPIHeritage month, we are reminded how much more work needs to be done. My parents owned a Chinese restaurant when I was younger and I can only imagine the fear and uncertainty these business owners and their families are experiencing. Many communities are getting hit hard in different ways but the rise in attacks against the Asian-American community must stop now. Share a photo of your meal with hashtag #TakeOutHate and tag the restaurant, your fam, and your pals to spread the word. Let’s do our part-starting with eating delicious food. I’m getting Chicken Katsu and delicious sushi from Daichan in Studio City. Where are you ordering from? Learn more at the link in my bio. #ajinomotopartner

A post shared by Harry Shum Jr (@harryshumjr) on

The campaign resulted in 28 earned media placements, including coverage on CNN, Yahoo and The Takeout.

The campaign video has been viewed 2.25 million times, and the hashtag #TakeOutHate has been used 3,500 times across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The campaign generated 156,800 engagements across all three channels. 

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