The eight remaining candidates sought out a perfect match as they devised their own online dating offers and created an advertising campaign to promote them. However, they ended up flirting with disaster as weak concepts and inconsistent execution left everyone struggling to secure another date with Lord Sugar. In the end, an abdication of responsibility was enough to convince Sugar that Jason Leech should be the ninth recipient of the Digit of Doom™.
Me! Me! Me! Oh, not me, then
After yet another Myles Mordaunt Underwear Moment™, the candidates are summoned to Old Marylebone Town Hall, the busiest registry office in London, where they are tasked with devising an online dating concept and advertising campaign. To even up the teams, Sugar’s weekly Apprenti-Shuffle™, sees Jordan Poulton moving across to Endeavour to join Myles, Leah Totton and Alex Mills, leaving Neil Clough, Jason Leech, Luisa Zissman and Francesca MacDuff-Varley on Evolve.
En route to the teams’ base at Farringdon ad agency Karmarama, Myles reveals that the first time he ever saw a picture of his wife was online, but not on a dating site. A catalogue wife? Or was she appearing on one of those websites? The mind boggles.
Meanwhile Alex claims to be the Christian Grey of the Valleys. Presumably he’s the central character of 50 Shades of Bullshit?
Jason reveals that he has run an online dating website for students in which he played the role of Mr Cupid. That’s enough to get him voted in as Evolve’s project manager.
Alex, who still hasn’t led a team, tries to put himself forward to lead on the basis of his experience in graphic design, websites and as a previous user of dating sites. However, he loses out to Jordan, who is voted in on the basis of not being Alex.
Abdication or palace coup?
As with previous advertising tasks, the route to success involves ticking three important boxes: identifying a good target market, understanding what will appeal to that demographic and then delivering against those needs in a coherent fashion.
At Alex’s behest, Endeavour decide to target young professionals, while Evolve champion the over-50s market despite Luisa’s unceasing protestations. Both are good demographics to aim for, so a good start.
Sub-teams then head out to conduct research with focus groups. Myles and Leah accost random young professionals on the street, while Neil and Francesca quiz some over-50s in a pub. There they arrive at the rather lame theme of ‘Friendship and Flowers’ which, in the absence of any personal insight into their target market, they decide to run with. Mind you, Endeavour don’t do much better as Alex comes up with the rather masculine ‘Cufflinks’ as a brand name. In the context of the task, the name doesn’t really matter – it’s the execution of the brand which is more important. Which is just as well, really.
Jason instead ties himself up in knots trying to decide on colour schemes for their website. Luisa, having already decided she knows what she wants, stomps impatiently, nags constantly and then tells him he’s giving her a headache. Oh, the irony. They’re two hours late in meeting up with their web designer, resulting in a horribly incomplete attempt at a website.
Endeavour are on schedule but, despite preaching the importance of an integrated look and feel at the outset, Jordan ends up with what looks like a corporate website rather than something fun and enticing for under-30s. The team does come up with some winning ideas for their TV ad revolving around a disastrous dating character called Herbert who is, well, a right Herbert. And who better to inhabit that role than Alex? Lack of coherence aside, it’s all coming together.
Evolve, in the meantime, are coming apart at the seams as they debrief what has been a disastrous day. After some debate about whether it’s even possible to switch PMs mid-task, they do anyway as Jason, recognising his poor handling thus far, takes one for the team and stands aside for Luisa. It’s hard to tell exactly how much of it is Jason abdicating responsibility and how much is Luisa engineering a palace coup – a bit of both, probably – but it’s a brave decision by both of them which potentially places them squarely in the firing line.
Lights, camera, action
The two teams continue to behave very differently the following day as they shoot their TV ads. Francesca directs for Evolve, with Neil supporting seamlessly, although the ad itself is as limp as a stick of wet celery.
Meanwhile Leah is supposedly directing for Endeavour but Alex, who is playing a starring role as Herbert in near full-on vampire make-up, continually insists on barking out contradictory instructions. However their ad, though cheesy and drifting increasingly off-brief, has a streak of humour which is sorely lacking in Evolve’s attempt to regard all over-50s as coffin-dodgers.
Ads shot, the teams have to decide who will present their pitches the following day. Jordan delegates to Myles. Neil offers to present, but Luisa states that she will select the person with the best skills for the job – which, of course, is Apprentice-speak for “You’re doing this over my dead body.” Sure enough, she picks herself – she is a good presenter so her decision is justifiable, but equally it’s clear that she could have had Martin Luther King on her team and she would still have chosen herself.
In front of a panel of ad agency professionals and online dating experts, Luisa and Myles pitch Friendship and Flowers and Cufflinks respectively. From what we see, both present well and deal with the inevitable nit-picking questions as best they can.
Friendship and Flowers is criticised for the dishevelled and incomplete state of its website, and for an ad which is deemed “too bland and too safe” and “a bit patronising … you’ve positioned it at 80-plus”. Cufflinks is pulled up on its “very masculine” name and “an absolute disconnect between the very serious functional website you’ve created and the advert”.
It’s clear that the audience laughed with Endeavour’s jokey ad and laughed at Evolve’s dull one. But it’s also evident that both teams’ approaches have distinct flaws.
In the boardroom, a displeased Sugar is quick to ask why no one seems to have any confidence in Alex as a project manager. Endeavour’s actual PM Jordan is praised by his team, but Karren Brady flags up the fact that maybe he’s a great delegator rather than a great leader. That’s a fair criticism in the show’s current format, where the winner must prove that they can deliver themselves as well as getting others to do so.
In the discussion about Evolve’s performance – and in particular the abdication incident – Nick Hewer reveals that he’s deeply unimpressed with Luisa’s behaviour:
Luisa nipped at [Jason’s] heels like a little terrier … and you drove him into a corner. It was the most disgraceful display of bad manners I’ve seen in many a long day.
He has a point. While Luisa’s frustration at Jason’s dithering was understandable, it has also been clear throughout the process that she quickly becomes impatient and argumentative with anyone doing anything she disagrees with.
The dull ad for Friendship and Flowers has Leah yawning and Sugar rolling his eyes in disbelief. As he says:
That makes Last of the Summer Wine look like an action movie.
Sugar is left with an unenviable decision. On the one hand, Endeavour understood how to appeal to their target market better, but the execution of their website and ad campaign was all over the place, with the only consistent thing about it being its complete lack of coherence. On the other hand, Evolve failed to understand their target market properly and delivered an ad which was off-message and unappealing. In the end Sugar decides that Endeavour are the winners. Though the execution was flawed, the concept and strategy for Cufflinks was fundamentally sound. Evolve’s errors stemmed from a fundamental failure to understand their target market.
The winning team are sent to Mayfair to sample some pricey caviar – cured fish eggs, basically. The losers trudge off to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where the closest the candidates will get to caviar is some fish fingers, to spend some time blaming each other.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar has to ask the team who he should address as project manager – Jason and Luisa agree it should be both of them. They discuss whether they should really have listened to their market research – if they’d ignored it, they would have been criticised for that, of course – and whether Jason conceded the PM role for the good of the team or whether he’d buckled under the pressure and just given up.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to a choice of bringing either Neil or Francesca back to face the final decision. Typically, the two disagree. Jason wants to bring back Francesca (as she was in charge of their poor advert), while Luisa thinks Neil should come back (a decision which, I suspect, was driven from personal dislike as much as anything). Francesca, incensed, as good as volunteers to stay in the boardroom, so a relieved and somewhat bewildered Neil is free to return to the Apprenti-Mansion™.
Fundamentally, though, Francesca is on pretty safe ground, although Karren wonders whether she really asked the right questions in the focus group. It quickly becomes clear that it’s coming down to a straight choice between Jason the thinker and Luisa the quick-fire decision-maker. Both make good points: Luisa says you often have to make quick decisions in business, while Jason counters that quick decisions are no good if they’re bad ones. Sugar voices his concern that Luisa may cause too many problems and that she brow-beat Jason into submission. (Although surely only Alex, Captain Eyebrows™ himself, can administer a true brow-beating?) But from the moment Sugar brands Jason an ‘academic’, his firing is inevitable.
As the trio file out of the boardroom, Karren makes an ominous comment about following Luisa next week to size up whether she is a strong businesswoman or just a plain bully. I’m increasingly of the opinion that she has decent instincts and is willing to take the kind of risks any good entrepreneur must take, but I also remain convinced that she’s nowhere near as good as she thinks she is and has a personality which isn’t conducive to working in partnership with Sugar.
In the Taxi to Obscurity™, Jason accepts his fate with good grace:
We were reaching that stage, I think, in the process where I’d have to go for blood because everybody is of very high calibre, and I just don’t have that killer instinct.
Jason seemed like a genuinely nice chap, offering a surplus of affability to cover the fact he was utterly naive in terms of commercial realities. And while his lack of ego made a refreshing change in a cast of candidates whose egos can barely fit through the door, he also seemed to lack the confidence and assertiveness to really make himself heard. He was always an entertainer, but he was never going to be a winner.
Next week: The teams must create their own ready meal. Insert your own joke about horse-meat here.
The Apprentice continues on Wednesdays on BBC1, with companion show You’re Fired following immediately afterwards on BBC2.