So, after seven weeks, from twelve candidates, two remained: James McCullagh and Zara Brownless.
Here we had two ï¿½chalk and cheeseï¿½ candidates: the rough with the smooth, with different strengths to compliment their contrasting personal styles.
The task was to create a brand new online video game, to create a viral video advert, and to pitch their games and videos to a large group of gaming professionals, from the very top tiers of the industry.ï¿½ As usual with the final, there was no objective winner and, indeed, Lord Sugar made it clear that he would take the contestantsï¿½ whole history on the show into account.
As it happens, I think the salient differentiator came entirely from outside the last eight weeks: more of that later.
For teams, Lord Sugar made the allocations from all of the losing candidates, perhaps feeling that he and the production team could head off teenage angst and rivalries and create more balanced teams than the contestants could, if they made their selections themselves.ï¿½ I think the teams did look pretty balanced:
Let the battle commence
Team James: Hannah, Harry H, Hayley, Lewis and Lizzie
Team Zara: Ben, Gbemi, Harry M, Haya and Mahamed
It is worth bearing in mind the advice given to all of the contestants by the industry expert supporting them.ï¿½ Games will succeed if you can engineer them:
- to be fun
- to have and engaging lead character
- To have expansion possibilities ï¿½ in the game or through cartoon, comic, or toy sales
The teamsï¿½ different games each scored differently on these two.
Zaraï¿½s ï¿½Piggy Panicï¿½ game
Zara opted for an engaging cute piggy character being chased by a butcher with a cleaver: clear characterisation, dramatic drive, and emotional peril.ï¿½ It led to a fairly predictable video that, despite having many of the right elements was not, I thought, quirky or funny enough to go viral.ï¿½ The game was a standard chase game that seemed to engage the industry experts who played it.
Jamesï¿½ ï¿½Crazy Cabinetï¿½ game
James opted for a dull-sounding but far more innovative game where the layer is the character ï¿½ of Prime Minister, with a rapidly growing in-tray of challenges to beat, before getting voted out.ï¿½ His video was quirky and edgy and, I thought a potential viral hit. Lord Sugar made much of the tenuous link between the mock party political broadcasts and the gameï¿½s content, but my understanding of viral videos is different.ï¿½ As long as people are hooked by the video and impressed enough to pass it on, it will go viral.ï¿½ If there is an easy link to a buy page, then a portion of viewers will buy.ï¿½ At Jamesï¿½ 59p price point, the cost of curiosity is low.
Zaraï¿½s pitch was sound ï¿½ as we knew it would be.ï¿½ Competent and professional but with little spark ï¿½ until Zara was asked about a bandage on the pigï¿½s leg.ï¿½ Her brilliant off the cuff response was that she wanted to hint that the pig ï¿½may have a pastï¿½.
James on the other hand, made an excellent pitch: innovative and witty ï¿½ also with good answers.
If Zaraï¿½s game had a more bankable character, James had clearly created a more expandable game.
And so to the Boardroom
Both had achieved a phenomenal product that impressed the experts, in three days.
Karren and Nick summed up the candidatesï¿½ strengths for us:
Zara: calm, fair, firm
James: structured, risk-taking, inclusive
Listening to the candidates and to Lord Sugar, I think the real assets of the two candidates were very clearly recognised.
Zara has an element of self-mastery that is beyond her years.ï¿½ She is controlled, articulate, focused, and hard working.ï¿½ But these are to an extent rare in competent professionals ï¿½ she can maintain this under pressure , keeping her cool and staying on task in the teeth of adversity.
James has a real entrepreneurial spirit.ï¿½ Heï¿½s a grafter with razor-sharp business acumen.ï¿½ But above all, he has shown himself able to evolve, from the brash boorish lad of episodes 1 and 2 to the careful listener and measured thinker of the last two episodes.
On the evidence of these, Zara was the safe winner: James was the edgy winner.ï¿½ Both were exceptional and at this point, my money had moved to James.
Then the game changedï¿½
On the evidence of weeks 1 to 8, James was out in front, and then Lord Sugar asked one more, highly salient question.ï¿½ He has the perception to see deeper and to ask the right questions: the ones that will inform a sound judgement and a fair choice.
ï¿½There is a ï¿½25,000 prize to help you build a future.ï¿½
It will be drip fed when Lord Sugar approves it.
ï¿½What will you use the money for?ï¿½
Zara wanted to buy more advanced film-making equipment, to allow her to make bigger productions for bigger clients and earn money to re-invest.ï¿½ She saw herself building a media-related business.ï¿½ In the last two years, she has been making ï¿½ and selling ï¿½ films.
James has not worked, nor started a business.ï¿½ He wanted to spend the money on his university education; and then produce, market and sellï¿½ something.
ï¿½and the decision was made
After that, Zara had to win, and she did.
It is not, I am absolutely certain, that Lord Sugar deprecates a university education, nor fails to value it as an investment.ï¿½ But that is not what this show is about.
The university education James planned was not the problem ï¿½ good on you, James, for high academic ambition.ï¿½ The problem was this; that he had no business plans at all.
He could not win.
Zara is already a first rate professional operator and she had a clear plan for how she will spend her prize money.ï¿½ It is ambitious and, frankly, better thought through than the plans of two of the finalists in the summerï¿½s adult Apprentice series.
Zara Brownless was a worthy winner. congratulations!