This week on Young Apprentice it was the turn of many people’s favourite assignment: the advertising task. Led by Zara Brownless, Team Atomic finally won their first task with their youth deodorant Raw. Meanwhile Harry Maxwell led Kinetic to their first defeat – but his fifth in five tasks overall – after a shambolic team performance. However despite being rounded upon by his entire team Harry survived, with fashion designer Gbemi Okunlola carrying the can for a poor packaging execution as she became the fifth recipient of Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™.
Mirror, mirror on the can, will this product get me a man?
After Harry H Not-Corbett™ (Harry Hitchens) wins this week’s Race to the Phone™, the candidates are whisked from the Apprenti-Mansion™ to Wembley Stadium, where Lord Sugar addresses them via one of the big screens. He instructs the two teams to create a new brand and packaging and then produce a TV advert for a new deodorant product targeted at the youth market. He then leaves Nick Hewer and Karren Brady who, as vice-chairman of West Ham, is unlikely to be returning to Wembley any time soon, to reshuffle the teams. Zara Brownless is moved from Kinetic to Atomic to even up the numbers, and then the two Harrys are swapped. Zara is tasked as Atomic’s project manager, leading Harry H, Haya Al Dlame and Hayley Forrester the Invisible Candidate™. Meanwhile Harry Maxwell aka Harry M, Brother of Boney™ is designated as the leader of a Kinetic team which also contains James McCullagh, Gbemi Edna Agbarha Mini-Me™ Okunlola and Lizzie Magee.
The Apprenti-Carriers™ whisk the teams off to the offices of top advertising agency JWT, with aspiring film-maker Zara making the first of a series of Orwellian pronouncements along the lines of “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”:
I’m not going to pretend I’m a specialist but it’s something I naturally have an interest in. So if any of you lot think you are going to get a look-in, think again, suckers. I’m the next Kathryn Bigelow, you know.
Her team quickly agree to target the male market with an all-in-one long-lasting product with the working slogan ‘On the field. At work. Through the night.’ Zara and Hayley start storyboarding their advert – or at least Zara does while Hayley simpers decoratively in the background. Meanwhile Haya and Harry H Not-Corbett test their concept with a focus group, but the feedback is distinctly negative. When they report back, Zara seems initially reluctant to deviate from her original storyboard – she is already picturing her acceptance speech for her BAFTA Award – but she eventually agrees to consider Haya’s simpler concept of featuring a single dancer.
At their casting call, Zara and Hayley quickly dismiss a couple of ‘dancers’ who are even more wooden than Nancy Dell’Olio’s on Strictly if she had been partnered with Pinocchio. But they finally find a break-dancer good enough to convince Zara to go with Haya’s idea. It is a brave decision, and to her credit it is one she makes for the good of the team rather than to protect her own ego.
Speaking of egos, Harry M is providing what he describes as “decisive” leadership – in the same way that Mussolini or Stalin were decisive. His team want to target the male market, but he insists on a female-focussed product. He overrides James’ sensible suggestion to agree the product concept first, instead offering up scintillating brand names such as I Love My Deodorant and Sweat Doctor. On the plus side, these are at least names which are likely not to have been already registered. On the minus side, there’s probably a reason for that. In fairness he does eventually accept Lizzie’s idea of Vanity.
However it is clear that, for all his self-confidence, he is much more comfortable with the harder, more commercial of business than he is in the world of advertising and branding. As James astutely observes, Harry is “not a very creative person”. And his refusal to nail down the team’s brand concept and positioning first a critical element, as highlighted in my ‘how to win’ guide, proves to be a critical error from which the team never recover.
Gbemi and Lizzie are despatched in the Apprenti-Carrier™ to come up with a packaging design. With both being strong-willed and the former being a fashion designer while the latter is a designer of customised guitar straps, the pair inevitably clash. Gbemi comments that this means one of them will eventually have to give in – clearly she intends for that to not be her – while a disinterested Nick sits quietly in the background making the odd note and playing Angry Birds on his phone.
Eventually the pair come up with a confused and distinctly old-looking design which for some reason features a mirror on it. Nick’s assessment of it is withering:
They’ve come up with a design that I personally think looks ancient – as ancient as me. But they know what they’re doing. They’re young and they know what’s on trend. I don’t. Let’s see whether I’m right or they’re right.
Of course, if they were right and he was wrong then this trenchant little observation would never have made the broadcast edit, would it? I’m just saying.
I’m not better than you, but …
With their product now branded Raw, Zara and Hayley head to a leisure centre to shoot
Zara’s their ad while Haya and Harry H work on the pitch. Zara is a little underwhelmed by the packaging, saying “it’s not quite what I hoped”. It looks like it might have been designed by a blind four-year old with ADHD.
Hayley spends the entire shoot making sensible suggestions – such as ensuring the product itself gets as much exposure as possible – which Zara continually ignores. However, the project manager clearly does know her way around a camera, getting in a wide array of shots to the point where her actor gets rather hot and sweaty – which seems like an undesirable state to be in when filming an advert for an anti-perspirant product. At one point Hayley comments that a particular shot looks “really cheesy” which, from Zara’s stony look, I was half-expecting to be met with red laser beams shooting out of her eyes and the acrid smell of burning teammate.
Kinetic’s day does not go well. Harry M and James are late arriving at their location after a morning show-down in which James accuses Harry of not doing enough himself. James knocks equipment over. They have no storyboard and just muddle through with both boys jointly directing. It’s not so much like watching the Coen brothers at work as the Chuckle Brothers. Nonetheless, they do manage to put together a decent enough ad centring on a geeky girl finding confidence through deodorant. (I’ve just re-read that last sentence. Pass the sick-bag.) Basically, it’s the video for Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.). But with a spray-can.
Neither is a great ad – and both have their flaws – but there is nothing as disastrous as Pants Man here. A shame.
The following day sees the Apprenti-Kids™ back at JWT to make their pitches to a packed room of people who needed no invitation to attend an inevitable car-crash. But actually both teams’ ads are far from the worst we have seen from Apprentice teams, and both pitches (what little we see of them) come across as polished and professional. (Which really begs the question of how the adult Apprentice contestants always seem to make such an appalling hash of this task.)
For Atomic, Harry H Not-Corbett pitches Raw as “the basic, untarnished, untampered strength of a young person”. He draws on relevant insight from their research and even injects a bit of humour into his presentation. The team’s slogan of ‘Live it Raw’ is a bit naff, though.
Lizzie’s presentation for Vanity starts with a mildly insulting comment about how teenage life has changed a lot since her audience were teens – because obviously it was centuries ago – but she also delivers a strong effort. Mind you, her team sitting alongside her don’t seem overly bothered. Harry M looks vaguely supportive but James looks like he would rather be watching paint dry, while Gbemi wears her usual scowl.
Pitches done, the advertising execs provide Sugar with their feedback, while the candidates head for the boardroom.
Most boardrooms start off relatively politely, but not this one. Harry M gets a savaging from his teammates, who say he is not a good team leader. James oddly backs him up (at least a bit) but Gbemi stops just short of asking whether he will be growing a Hitler moustache for Movember. In return, Harry voices his disappointment over the packaging.
It’s much the same story for Atomic, with Hayley being critical of Zara’s performance as project manager. However, she gets pulled up for her idea of Raw as a brand name, with its connotations of skin irritation.
Sugar tells the teams that they have produced “some of the best adverts I think I’ve seen in this boardroom”. Although, to be fair, previous efforts have hardly set the bar high.
With no numbers to compare this week, it’s straight to Sugar’s verdict. He tells Kinetic that their concept was good but their execution poor, and that the product had no association with the advert – all fair comments. Zara’s ad and more consistent brand concept was judged better – although personally I thought the ad execution was weak and more than a little dull – meaning that Atomic have finally won their first task, while for Harry M it is his fifth successive defeat.
Atomic are sent stunt flying for their treat, looping the loop and performing other aerobatic moves. For Kinetic, it is time to crash and burn at the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where again the entire team rounds on Harry. Although he was clearly at fault in several respects this week and will always make enemies with his abrasive personality, this was clearly a tough task for him to be project manager on with creativity emerging as an obvious weakness here.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar tells the team that the agency people said their concept got muddled and their ad did not feature enough prominent pack shots. He hammers the packaging design despite Gbemi’s repeated protests that she thought it was good. Lizzie, who also came up with the brand name and slogan, earns praise from Nick for her pitch. Meanwhile Harry makes the bold claim that the team “gelled very, very well together” under his leadership – to snorts of derision from his team – and accuses James of being disruptive, slightly unfairly. He eventually decides – correctly, I think – to keep Gbemi and James in the boardroom with him.
Sugar sends Lizzie back to the house with the following sage advice:
Try not to be on the losing team next time.
No, really? Have this week’s this week’s Statement of the Blahhdy Obvious Award™.
After Sugar confers with Nick and Karren, the trio are brought back into the boardroom. Harry calls James “a hive of negativity”, whatever that is. Gbemi is accused of being negative, which is hardly a newsflash. Sugar ponders that there must be a reason why Harry is always on the losing team. He looks genuinely fearful as Sugar dials up the criticism, but the reality is that his salesmanship and entrepreneurial instincts on previous tasks have earned him enough brownie points to give him a free pass this week.
Instead Sugar points to the woeful design as the main culprit for the team’s failure in the task, and fires Gbemi. Based on this task alone his rationale doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, but the reality is Gbemi had done little to shine in previous weeks and had done herself few favours with her negative and argumentative approach. (Plus I still hadn’t forgiven her for bare-faced lie in attempting to grab some credit for Harry M’s heliconia sale in the floristry task.) Her petulance is only underlined when she refuses Harry’s offer of a hug before departing in the Riches-To-Rags Roller™, where she says:
This definitely doesn’t put me off any designing that I do. I mean, there’s always a design that you do and you think “Hey, I could have done this much better.” So every mistake that I do I just know that I can improve and next time I’ll just make it 100 times better.
So we are now at the point where the weakest candidates have been weeded out, but I’m not sure there is a clear favourite. I still think one of the three remaining boys will win, with Harry M still the marginal favourite. This was a bad week for him, but the advertising task often produces some anomalous performances and next week’s more traditional buying task should see him shine again. If any of the girls are going to win my money would be on Lizzie, who continues to quietly impress and has shown no obvious weaknesses thus far.
Next week: It’s back to hard-nosed negotiating as the teams must find and buy ten items for the lowest possible price. Let’s hope they don’t have to find a clo-chay, eh?
Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Monday at 9pm.
Link: BBC official website
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