The Apprentice 2012, Episode 9: Missing the Point
Last night’s episode of the Apprentice focused our attention on one key point; and I hope you didn’t miss it.
Sadly, the two teams did, in their different ways, miss the point. And the candidate who did so most spectacularly, paid the price.
The task was to create an awareness-raising campaign to support the promotion of English Sparkling Wine. The teams had to do this principally by creating a website and a short video, and then pitch their campaigns to a panel of industry experts. To support them, they had access to a vineyard and a wine tasting opportunity, a web designer, and a video crew and editing suite. All they needed were some creativity and some sensitivity to the brief.
The creativity part was, of course, going to be interesting to me, having argued for its importance in an earlier blog. I was, frankly, pretty disappointed.
Lord Sugar balanced the two teams by inviting Phoenix to select a fourth member from Sterling. They quickly chose Nick Holzherr, whom I too see as a strong candidate. We have not, to be fair, seen a huge amount of good performance from Nick, but neither does he place his feet wrongly too often. He calmly contributes well: good choice.
Phoenix, thus bolstered, selected Tom Gearing, unsurprisingly (he is a director of a Fine Wine business) as Project Manager, to lead Tom, Jade Nash and Adam Corbally
Sterling, thus depleted all wanted to lead. All voted except Stephen Brady and he cast the final vote in favour of Ricky Martin, who led Stephen, Jenna Whittingham and Gabrielle Omar
While Ricky sized up his opposition: “forget Tom knows wine, Nick knows websites and Jade knows marketing”, Stephen dived headfirst into the task of naming their product, coming up with “Cert”, “Grandeur” and “Chink”. I am lost for words and, in the car with Stephen, so was Gabrielle. So let’s track back to “Tom knows wine, Nick knows websites and Jade knows marketing”. So, Ricky, what does Adam know? Ah yes, fruit and veg. Not sparkling wine, it appeared. Once again out of his comfort zone, Tom had to explain what Champagne is, and how it relates to English sparkling wine.
I have to declare that this was the week that Stephen really got to me and I did feel for Gabrielle as she tried to focus on understanding the branding choices of existing sparkling wines at a large supermarket, while Stephen buzzed around looking for a wine expert to answer all his questions. It seems that, despite this interference, Gabrielle did get. Her design ideas and her brand image were spot on and both the panel and Lord Sugar were later to complement her Rose/Champagne glass logo idea.
If only she had confidently batted back Stephen’s stupid idea to label the wine “Grandeur”, thus choosing a French word to represent an English product that is trying to clearly distinguish itself from a better known French product. D’ohhh. This is not the first time that a foreign word has been implicated in a team’s failure.
Among the opposition, Tom and Adam were having rather too much fun at a wine tasting and showing pretty conclusively that, whilst good wine is good business, its influence can make you look and act like a fool. Still, through the haze of light-headedness, Adam did retain one piece of information for the next day’s video shoot. Hold the glass at the foot. If only he’d been equally precise in his use of the word choreography as he was in his repeating of that instruction to the actors. Is it just me, or was Jade not enjoying working with Adam on making the video?
Meanwhile, Ricky sent Stephen and Jenna off to make a video that would emphasise the word he had heard most clearly at his visit to the vineyard: “quality”. Jenna, however, wanted to emphasise humour. Taking on the mantel of John Cleese, she enjoined the actors to ham it up and go for laughs. Would the resulting video demonstrate quality? You could tell Ricky was getting concerned over the phone but was backing off confrontation. His push for quality soon turned into a plaintive begging for “not too cheesy”. Addressing camera after the call, it sounded more like hope than expectation when he told us he thought they had understood. We knew – and he did too – that all was lost. “Let’s hope it will win”said Jenna “or it’s on my head.” Prophetic?
Preparing to Pitch
The faces of the two project managers when they viewed their teams’ videos – which neither had supervised directly – were a treat. Neither should consider a career in professional poker! That “oh no, we’ve lost” moment signalled in Tom, utter contempt and a feeling of abject fear, when he saw Adam’s dull, clichéd, uninformative video. And Ricky, manfully, tried to look impressed at a video that clearly was “too cheesy”. No, cheesy is the wrong word: tacky would hardly do it justice. Pity the actors who will, doubtless, be conveniently forgetting the whole experience when updating their resumés.
The judging was not based on objective measures, but on Lord Sugar’s assessment of the two campaigns, informed by the opinions of industry experts.
Phoenix had failed to create an informative website, focusing too much on sales, and they had produced a boring advert rather than an engaging informational video.
Sterling had produced a flippant and inappropriate advert, supported by a good branding – although with an inappropriate name. I hardly think that the strongest argument of English sparkling wine producers for their product is that French Champagne is horrible: it isn’t. Yet that was the key message Stephen’s and Jenna’s advert conveyed.
Both sides had missed the point of their brief. Both had failed.
But who had failed the most?
Well, like Lord Sugar, I would say a boring advert must trump and offensive one – even if adverts were not in the brief. Sterling lost. I am loath to say that Phoenix won: their output was less bad. Indeed, only one aspect of the whole two days showed real quality and that was Gabrielle’s design flair. Ricky acknowledged that in the boardroom, wisely not selecting her to return with him, Stephen and Jenna. That, however, was not until Stephen had tried hard to pin the team’s failings on her – as a poor contributor. D’ohhh.
There were three strong candidates for a firing:
- Jenna took responsibility for the awful video
- Ricky should have been responsible for saying “no” to Jenna’s desire for humour in the video
- Stephen took responsibility for virtually nothing
Each had a strong line of defence too:
- Jenna gets stuck in, works hard and contributes
- Ricky is smart and understood the need for quality
- Stephen, sensing the chop, offered to bet Lord Sugar that he could lead the team and win the next task
Lord Sugar decided
- Jenna must go – she failed to get the point: this is a quality product
- Ricky gets to stay – not controlling the video was a big error, but he got another chance
- Stephen gets to play out his bet. He will be Project Manager next week and, I am sure, if he loses, he’ll be in the back of the cab faster than you can say D’ohhh.
But a lot can happen to influence which team wins, so Stephen could yet stay. That will be all the better entertainment, but let’s face it: Lord Sugar is not going to have Stephen as his business partner. Who, then?
- Gabrielle: good chance – creative, personable and good judgement
- Nick: Good chance – we still have seen little of his exceptional strengths, but he is a constant calm, contributing presence
- Tom: Fair chance – though faded for me a little this eek, after two uninspiring PM performances
- Adam: Unlikely – the words “out of his comfort zone” come up too often
- Jade: Unlikely – we still have seen very little of her talent
- Ricky: Unlikely – a strong individual with good qualities, but little exceptional has emerged to balance his weaknesses
- Stephen: No