The Sanjaya Principle

Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s not, but millions of American Idol viewers are voting for this fool:
Seems that bad advertising–just like bad singing–is still out there. It wouldn’t be if it didn’t work. And the masses still put up with it. Why?

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to produce better work. Quite the opposite; I believe in the power of differentiation. Never mind trying to sell a One Show-worthy idea: It takes courage to simply try to convince a client that tried-and-true formulas aren’t the best solution, because much of the evidence suggests they work. It takes guts to tell a millionaire car dealer that he can actually be selling without yelling.
The truth is America still embraces bad advertising—much like America votes for Sanjaya. Mediocrity triumphs, even if many of us wish it wouldn’t. However, Sanjaya could sell a million records, and make a lot of money for himself and Simon Cowell. Is that bad? If the critics, the pundits, and the self-proclaimed experts were in charge, American Idol wouldn’t have Tony Bennett week. It’d have Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen week, and do you think anyone would watch?

It’s the subject of my new column on Talent Zoo. I hope you enjoy it.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. theo kie says:

    Mediocrity is like Vanilla ice cream. No color to speak of…little in the way of startling taste…yet it continues to be the number one selling flavor by a large margin. It’s been that way for years.
    We like things that are easy to swallow, we Americans. So we in agencies are left to half-chew each bite before feeding it to our audiences.