It seems like only last week that the seventh season of The Apprentice kicked off. And yet less than a month after the opening episode we are already down to our final ten after Lord Sugar made his Digit of Doom™ work overtime with a shock double firing. First Ellie Reed got the finger, and she was soon followed by Vincent
Disney Disneur after Logic contrived to make a dog’s dinner of their pet food task and lose for the fifth task in a row. Meanwhile Venture, led by Glenn Ward, proved to be the dog’s bollocks – or should that be the cat’s whiskers? – as they managed to be the less bad of the two teams.
Do you know the old expression “never work with children and animals”? Never work with Apprentice candidates and animals, more like.
This week’s Race to the Phone™ winner is Glenn, who answers wearing only a towel to protect his modesty. Okay, who am I kidding? None of this lot have any modesty, do they? Anyway, the candidates are summoned via Apprenti-Carrier™ to the offices of creative agency TBWA in Fitzrovia. Glenn gets a bonus point for not asking whether or not that’s abroad.
Karren Brady and Nick Hewer are there in person to greet them, but for some unknown reason Sugar gives a pre-recorded briefing via a projector screen from his secret volcano lair. (And to think some accuse him of being a two-dimensional TV personality …)
The task is straightforward enough. The teams have three days to create a new pet food brand, devise an advertising campaign for it and then pitch it to a room of experts who will try really hard to keep straight faces. Sugar appoints Vincent as Logic’s project manager, Glenn as Venture’s, and himself as the de facto head of the Worshipful Company of Marketors. (I didn’t just make that up – it really does exist.)
So, to summarise. Vincent is leading Tom Pellereau, Jim Eastwood, Ellie Reed, Melody Hossaini and Natasha Scribbins for Logic. And Venture, led by Glenn, includes Zoe Beresford, Leon Doyle, Susan Ma, Helen Milligan and Edna Agbarha. Got that? Then off we go.
Day 1: Let’s target, er, everyone!
Both teams start off by brainstorming target markets, product ideas and names. Vincent is not lacking in self-assurance, as he tells the camera:
My confidence and charisma can overpower certain people.
And all along I’ve been thinking it was his aftershave. Vincent’s grand idea is that they should target their product at every dog owner in the history of history itself. Even the ones who don’t actually own a dog. Or something. Venture, meanwhile, settle on some cat-related nosh.
Having decided on their products, both teams then split up. Half head to Lincolnshire to make their products, while the others work on branding and packaging.
For Logic, Jim seizes on Vincent’s repeated use of the word ‘every’ to come up with the brand EveryDog. “For every day, there’s EveryDog,” he says profoundly. Vincent loves it, and continues to love it even after a focus group tell him point-blank that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t appeal. (There’s a clue in the name, guys: it’s a ‘focus’ group, not a ‘how do we appeal to everyone’ group.) Without even hearing the focus group feedback, inventor and Michael Sheen lookalike Tom raises the same concern, and is totally ignored by his project manager.
Venture are also mulling over branding ideas. Leon initially toys with the slogan “give your cat a break” – did anyone else think Kit Kat at this point? – before coming up with the incredibly naff Lucky Fish, which mysteriously gets a warm response in their focus group. Separately, as their Apprenti-Carrier™ speeds up the motorway past rows of cat’s eyes, Glenn comes up with Cat-Size as a play on words for their feline dietary product, and insists on running with his own idea despite his other sub-team’s research. As he keeps saying, he’s a creative person. Apparently.
Both teams devise their recipes, with no help whatsoever from the lab teams at their disposal, obviously. Ingredients include flax-seed oil, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. And WD40 and a redcurrant jus. Maybe. No one actually mentions meat, however. Suspicious.
Still running with his Cat-Size brand, Glenn comes up with the slogan “Cat-Size. See their light.” It’s a play on words, innit? Light as in the light reflecting off cat’s eyes. Light as in what the cats will be after losing weight eating their product. Glenn, if you have to explain the play on words to everyone, it really isn’t working, is it?
Day 2: More falsetto, dahhling!
Day two sees the teams split up again to work on their advertising campaign and the pitch for the following day. Vincent nominates Melody to do Logic’s pitch (fair enough) while Glenn asks Leon to deliver Venture’s (er, why?)
Tom records the sound of his heart-beat for Logic’s TV ad, and then does some quick press-ups so they also have a faster heart-beat to use. Phwoar. (Not.) Vincent adds the sound of a dog barking. Oh, if only they had downloaded the girls’ Ampi-Apps app from the mobile phone app task, eh? Natasha directs their advert, ignoring Ellie’s input because she doesn’t want anything interfering with her ‘vision’. Whatever.
Venture have, for some reason, asked a ginger-haired male actor to record a high-pitched female voiceover for their TV ad. I know what you’re thinking: you want a female voice and you hire a ginger?
Day 3: EveryDog has his day
The teams have to pitch their brand and campaign to an audience of TBWA executives and representatives from Mars Petcare. This can only end one way, obviously: evisceration.
Melody gives a polished pitch for EveryDog, but we see Logic having to fend off some pointed questions about their non-targeted targeting with the ‘Every’ concept. Jim tries to bluff his way out of it with his usual Irish charm and Jedi mind powers. He fails.
Leon’s presentation is a mess. He mutters through some facts and figures, then describes the product as if he is reading the label on the tin. As pitches go, it’s as poorly structured and delivered a session as we have ever seen on the series – and that’s saying something. Their finished TV ad also appears to have background music reminiscent of a 1970s porn film. (Or so I’m told.) Did someone sneak Christopher Farrell and his Octi-Kleen ad from last year in?
Glenn has to explain his play on words again. And Leon comes out of the pitch saying:
No one’s actually said how well I did.
There’s a reason for that.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar gets the first wisecrack in when he says to serial task loser Vincent:
With your track record at Logic I suppose Winalot was not on the agenda, really.
Logic’s TV ad, directed by Natasha, is actually pretty competent in the circumstances. (It’s all relative: all Apprentice TV ads are rubbish, as you would expect from a team of non-experts asked to cobble together an ad in five minutes out of an old Fairy liquid bottle and some sticky-backed plastic.)
Glenn has to explain his play on words again. And then his team’s ad gets a panning, not least because it feels more like a radio commercial than a TV one.
But it doesn’t matter. Venture’s ad was rubbish, their brand name and slogan were rubbish, and Leon’s pitch was rubbish. But it had been put together in decent packaging with at least a modicum of thought as to its target audience and positioning. Logic’s efforts were all style and no substance – their marketing was fundamentally flawed, and in trying to appeal to everyone they came up with a concept that didn’t really appeal to anyone. Deserving losers? Yes, although Glenn was very lucky as his team won in spite of his genius ideas rather than because of them.
Venture head off to Queen’s Club to play tennis with Pat Cash. Or, at least, swing hopelessly as Cash lobs up easy dolly balls to them. Not much chance of any of this lot representing Britain at the Olympics next year.
So for the fifth week in a row Vincent, Tom and Logic head off to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™ – surely they must qualify for some kind of loyalty discount by now? – where a dejected Tom says:
In many ways I’ve never hated being right so much. The problem was we committed marketing suicide. We went into the face of everything the market has done.
Young Mr Pellereau has a knack of spotting the fundamental flaws in his team’s strategy, even though no one ever seems to listen to him. Keep an eye on him.
Back in the boardroom, friends Vincent and Jim repeatedly stop short of pointing the finger at each other, even though Sugar is clearly indicating that both of them are at fault – Jim for coming up with the name, and Vincent for not having a clear and distinct brand positioning. The former accusation is a bit unfair – Jim just offered the name up as one of many ideas during brainstorming, which is the whole point of brainstorming – but the latter is spot on.
Eventually, Vincent has to make a choice, and he elects to bring Ellie (for not offering very much) and, inexplicably, Natasha back in with him, letting Jim off the hook. It pretty much seals his own fate there and then.
As Sugar observes while the trio are fidgeting outside:
This Jim, he seems to have some kind of control over people. I don’t know why.
And back inside, Natasha wastes no time twisting the knife:
Tom’s voice was not heard cos you were so far up Jim’s behind you couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
It’s an easy decision now, right? Sugar trains his sights on Vincent, and then fires Ellie with the woolliest rationale I’ve seen since I last watched Shaun the Sheep:
I have to start thinking about who I’m going to go into business with. I haven’t seen much of you, Ellie, and I don’t think I could go into business with you, so I’m going to tell you that you’re fired.
As happens at least once every year, Sugar fires a candidate for not showing their competence rather than dismissing one who has amply demonstrated their incompetence. But he then rectifies the situation by turning back to Vincent and accusing him of being in awe of Jim and strategising to maximise his boardroom chances. To send a message back to the others, Vincent also receives the boot.
So this week we have two Taxis to Obscurity™. A frank Ellie says:
To be honest I don’t want to be something that I’m not. I’m not a forceful, in-your-face person, so if that’s what he’s looking for then I’m not the right person for him.
Unsurprisingly, Vincent is more bullish in his outlook:
I’m very surprised that Lord Sugar fired me. I felt that we were just in our infancy in terms of what I was capable to show Lord Sugar. Perhaps I should have brought Jim in, If I’d brought Jim in there I wouldn’t be in this position now.
In the fight for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, ten candidates remain. Can we just fire all of them?
Next week: It is literally a rubbish task, as the candidates are asked to set up their own rag-and-bone businesses. Steptoe & Son live on!
The Apprentice continues on BBC1, Wednesday at 9pm. Companion show You’re Fired follows on BBC2 at 10pm.
Link: BBC official website
Whatever happened to the previous Apprentice winners?