There has certainly been ample press and discussion about the American Idol finale and much of it dwelled on Adam Lambert’s loss. Certainly Lambert was the best singer and performer of the season, one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the program. He was a professional in every sense of the word competing against amateurs. One especially emotional and vitriolic reaction was that it was “The biggest robbery since Bush stole the election”. But every editorial I have seen has personalized the event based on the writer’s own bias and no one that I have found has yet taken the time to truly analyze the cause.
I admit I was hooked on American idol this year. Part of the reason for my viewership is that over the past two years the networks have managed to cancel every scripted television show that I liked. I understand there are some great shows on cable but as I spend half my time in hotel rooms with limited channel choices, I have come to depend on the major networks for weekday evening entertainment unless there is something on HBO which I have not seen.
In previous Idol years I would occasionally tune in for the tryouts for I admit I enjoyed watching the vast number of self-deluded people who lacked any talent yet traveled across the country and waited in line for hours to embarrass themselves in a national forum. But other than that I watched only when I was home and wished to spend time with my wife as she is an admitted Idol addict.
This year, however, I found the program to be entertaining and deserving of my attention, primarily due to the talents of two of the competitors. My wife spotted Adam Lambert immediately at his audition, referring to him in the ongoing competition as the “Goth” boy, and certain that he should win. I quickly joined my wife as a fan of both Adam and the other amazing individual, 16 year old Allison Iraheta. Both of them displayed talent that put them head and shoulders above all the other competitors. And while I would pay to see Allison starring in a remake of The Rose, or a new bio pic on Janis Joplin, and I would buy tickets to see Adam if he should tour with Kiss, front for Queen, or start his own band, I knew with certainty that neither of them could win on American idol!
Several people have suggested that Adam lost due to homophobia but I disagree. Certainly homophobia exists and perhaps it may have had an impact on some voters but that cannot be the primary reason as Adam made it to the finals. If he were to have been voted out because he might be gay (and that has yet to be confirmed), would that not have occurred in prior weeks, well before he eliminated the obviously “straight” other contestants such as Danny Gokie? And if we in the good old USA have shown any tolerance for the gay community, has it not been in show business?
Another theory floating on the web claims conspiracy implemented through automatic phone dialing machines. I know that one cannot be true because, if it were, Anoop Desai would surely have come out on top by millions of votes every week as the phone lines at the customer service departments of every company in the world would have been utilized on his behalf by his relatives.
Others have opined that the voting is controlled by the 9 to 12 year old girls who had claimed vendetta after their candidate Archeletta lost last year. As Ken Levine suggests in his blog, “Hell hath no fury like a middle schooler with a Twitter account!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ken-levine). There may be some validity here also but I believe that misses the basic point. While I have no doubt that the audience included a large component or pre-pubescent females, I seriously doubt that a pleasant but mediocre married singer was necessarily more attractive to this group than an effeminate rock star.
The most probable reason that I have heard comes from Michael Glitz who suggests in his blog (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-giltz) that the Christian vote prevailed (similar to W’s appeal with the Moral Majority). If you follow the historical trend of the show, there is some factual precedent as Kris Allen did missionary work around the world, Fantasia (Season 3) had years of experience singing in church, Sparks (Season 6) is an evangelical Christian and wore a purity ring, and Cook (Season 7) got his start in a second grade Christmas pageant and won over the other David, a Mormon. But again, that is at best only part of the reason.
All of the opinions that I have heard and read lack consideration of one very simple fact – the show is broadcast on the Fox network at 8:00 PM (7:00 PM Central time) on Tuesday. And the audience for network television shows at that time has a serious deficiency in the target markets that would strongly favor Adam. Singles and couples age 18 to 30 should still be out for dinner or at clubs and bars. The east and west coast markets similarly tend to have better things to do. So that leaves the youngsters, the middle-agers and the oldsters, primarily living in the central areas of the country, having just finished eating dinner at home, in the majority of those watching the program and voting.
This is “Middle America” – they drive American cars, they shop at Wal-Mart. They are conservative (the “red” states), less sophisticated, less adventurous, less “hip”, less willing to “crown a young man who looks like Liza Minnelli their next American Idol” (to quote Ken Levine). They may overwhelmingly be Christians, there may be a lot of middle school girls in the mix, but the primary reason that they picked Chris is that he appealed to their basic nature and they were “comfortable” with him. Whether they will buy his albums and attend his concerts remains to be seen.
And that is why I knew from Day 1 that Adam could not win. Actually, I am somewhat surprised that he made it to the finals. It is all about “target marketing”. Kris, by his very nature, reached the target market needed to win the competition while Adam did not. I am certain that Adam, by staying true to his nature, reached the target market he was seeking, the one that will support his career and make him a star; it is just a different target market than the majority that voted in the finals.
The new home business also depends on target marketing and I believe that many of us forgot that fact in the strong markets of the first half of this decade. But to be successful today and in the future we must identify the specific groups that need and want our new homes; we must design exciting and appropriate homes and communities for those markets; we must create valid and meaningful reasons to come out to see what we have to offer; and we must sell with personally relevant, meaningful and emotional reasons to purchase.
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