This week’s Apprentice brought us a succession of firsts: the first task to focus on social media, a first victory for Summit and the show’s first ever triple firing, bringing the casualty count up to eight in just four weeks.
Fitness and food
Videos that won’t go viral
Alan Sugar’s word is final
Steven, Sarah, Ella Jade
Boardroom history is made
The Apprenti-Carriers bring the candidates to Wilton’s Music Hall in London’s East End. Opened in 1859, it’s the world’s oldest surviving grand music hall and remains in use today. It’s also 146 and 122 years older than YouTube and MTV respectively. (Fact fans: the first video ever played on MTV when it debuted in August 1981 was … The Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star. You’re welcome.)
Lord Sugar tasks the teams with producing three videos with which to launch their own YouTube channel, with the aim of generating the most views over two days. With Summit losing another two members last week – that’s five in all so far – Sugar moves Jemma Bird across. He then appoints Ella Jade Bitton (who wants to set up a TV production company) and Solomon Akhtar (the technology entrepreneur) as project managers of Tenacity and Summit respectively.
The teams decamp to YouTube’s central London headquarters to start brainstorming ideas.
Tenacity adopt fitness instructor Katie Bulmer-Cooke‘s exercise idea. Steven Ugoalah suggests ‘how not to pump iron’ but they eventually run with Felipe Alviar-Baquero‘s ‘Fat Daddy Fitness Hell’. Ella Jade names herself as director and Sarah ‘Mistress of the Lemons’ Dales as timekeeper – because that’s how much her input is valued.
Summit settle on food with a strong focus on humour, with Roisin Hogan and James ‘any excuse to get my shirt off’ Hill hosting in front of the cameras. As Nick Hewer notes:
James was picked to be one of the presenters because he can act the idiot.
‘Act’ the idiot, Nick?
Summit’s day gets gradually worse. Ella Jade doesn’t take well to Pamela Uddin making suggestions to clarify her own woolly direction. Along the way, their original intention to be both informative and entertaining loses any sense of humour as ‘Fat Daddy’ Felipe becomes more of a figure of ridicule.
Lauren Riley, who seems to have become Tenacity’s go-to sub-team leader, heads up the team’s design efforts. Daniel Lassman expresses concern that their concept might be offensive (only about three hours too late). Under Sarah’s steely timekeeping, they run out of time and end up uploading their videos without a catchy title, descriptive tags or anything useful that might flag up their videos with search engines and draw in potential viewers.
They claim they didn’t realise they needed to do that. Mind you, these are some of the same people who didn’t realise solar panels don’t work if you cover them up.
There are no such problems on Solomon’s team, whose Dare to Dine concept (Jemma’s suggestion) is well sorted out, with the only point of contention being the selection of a YouTube collaborator with whom to film their final video the following day. Solomon plays the numbers game, opting for the massive following of 19-year-old Oli White over the more credible but smaller audience of Barry Lewis.
Buzzfeed – or buzzkill?
The following morning, Nick remains sceptical about both Summit’s efforts and the intelligence of the YouTube audience:
They all think it’s terribly funny. They may do – they’ve created this thing. Millions have got to find it funny, not just the odd nutcase.
Oh dear, Nick.
Mind you, Pamela doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings with her opinion on Ella Jade’s video masterpieces:
I think it’s very middle of the road.
The thing is: she’s right. And do you know what else you often find in the middle of the road? Roadkill.
Ella Jade steps aside to allow Pamela to direct Tenacity’s final video with their collaborators TheLeanMachines. The result? Clear direction, a more humorous video and a happier team.
The final element of the task requires the teams to make a pitch to be featured by Buzzfeed. Mark Wright, Solomon and Bianca Miller hit the right notes for Summit, but the Buzzfeed team are unimpressed with their videos’ juvenile humour. Bianca notes afterwards:
The guy on the left – I managed to read what he was writing, and he wrote “Kill James.”
And isn’t that something most of us could agree on?
Steven is super-keen to lead Tenacity’s pitch, which he crams full of generic gobbledygook to the extent that even the rest of his sub-team are bored. In the pitch meeting he waffles endlessly without actually saying anything. I’ve heard filibustering politicians who are less verbose. Buzzfeed are even less impressed with their cringeworthy videos, summing up the problem with a concision utterly lacking in Steven’s presentation:
I don’t think I would share it on an overweight friend’s page to say, “Hey, look, this is you. LOL.”
It comes as no surprise when neither team receives any promotion from Buzzfeed.
Sugar is unimpressed with Summit’s videos but Solomon receives the universal backing of his team for his performance as project manager.
Tenacity, however, get a rougher ride. Their videos are criticised for being a mish-mash of funny and serious. Steven is criticised for his rambling, content-light pitch. (He disagrees loudly.) Pamela sticks the knife into Ella Jade for her lack of decisiveness and leadership.
It’s all set up for the big reveal of a landslide win for Summit. Only it doesn’t quite turn out that way. Summit do register their first victory but only just, with 3,532 views to Tenacity’s 3,314. As a reward, they’re sent to Iceland to bathe in a hot volcanic lagoon.
Tenacity are in a different and far less pleasant kind of hot water. Pamela, who already has a history of blaming others, pins the responsibility on Ella Jade, who in turn points the finger at Steven and Sarah.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar quickly brushes aside all the excuses, pointing out that their Fat Daddy idea had plenty of scope for comedy which never materialised in the final videos. He notes:
The only way you lot are going viral is if you kiss someone with the bloody flu.
Steven expresses (loudly) that he was ignored. Sarah is blamed for everything that went wrong in the sub-team, even though it was Lauren who led it. More persuasively, Katie brings up Sarah’s performance as PM on the opening task – where her sales strategy involved short skirts, high heels and lipstick – as the reason no one trusts her.
Predictably, Ella Jade opts to bring back Steven and Sarah with her. (Steven disagrees loudly.) Karren Brady offers equally scathing observations on both of them. First she nails the problem with Steven perfectly:
People ignore him because it’s actually far easier to ignore Steven than to spend so long listening to him get to the point.
And then she cuts through Sarah’s protestations about being marginalised and ignored:
The question is: does she have anything worthwhile to say?
The final boardroom disintegrates into an unseemly bitching session. Ella Jade comes under fire for her lack of business experience. Sarah still claims to have been a great PM in week one, and her ‘expertise’ of the online dating website business she wants to set up is brutally shot down by Ella Jade, who points out that her only experience is as a member of such sites rather than actually running one.
Steven (loudly) ignores all criticism, continuing to talk even when Sugar interrupts him. A bad move – and his last move too, as Sugar declares him “a lost cause in this process” and fires him.
He’s only just getting started, though. He points out to Sarah that there’s no smoke without fire and there’s a reason her teammates don’t have any confidence in her. She’s fired too – as much for her abominable performance in victory on the opening task as anything else. In truth, she’s been a dead duck ever since – an easy target for others to isolate and pick off.
Sugar still isn’t finished. Ella Jade, who can see the writing on the wall, begs for forgiveness repeatedly and continues to plead even after he dismisses her – the show’s first ever triple firing! – to the point where it becomes more than a little embarrassing. Project managers have got away with worse in the past, but my overall impression of Ella Jade was of someone who lacked both directness and experience and was found out badly in a task that should have suited her well.
So, you wait an entire week for a Taxi to Obscurity and then three show up at once. First we get Ella Jade:
When I saw Steven and Sarah leave I thought I might have been given a chance to prove myself. I was in complete shock to be fired as well.
It’s a little harder to take Steven’s parting words seriously:
I think my passion got misunderstood by Lord Sugar as not being able to get along with other people. In reality, I’m very easygoing and I’m very easy to get along with other people. Unfortunately that didn’t come across.
No, indeed it didn’t.
As for Sarah, well …:
I think Lord Sugar looked at all of us today and thought we’re not suitable business partners. Which is fair enough – I don’t think Lord Sugar is a suitable business partner for me.
To her credit, she utters that final sentence with a straight face. However, I shall refrain from further comment at this point. What else is there to say that hasn’t already been said?
This was one of those deceptive tasks where 90% of the effort goes into creating the least important element that contributes to overall success: namely the creation of the videos. Don’t get me wrong, having quality content is critical to success in the real world – there’s a reason the mantra ‘content is king’ is so commonly heard around social media – but in an Apprentice task where the teams had barely a day in which to create a new channel, come up with three ideas for videos and shoot them, quality was never going to be a determining factor.
So what was key to winning the task? As small start-ups in a highly competitive arena, bringing viewers to their channels was vital. Search engine optimisation – using common search terms – is a good start, something Tenacity failed to do. Having an engaging title that then encourages people to click on their video is also important – again, Tenacity fell down here.
And yet, looking at the numbers, Tenacity lost by about 200 views but their collaboration video fetched around 800 less than Summit’s – meaning their other two videos must have generated around 600 more hits. So they must have done something right (or Summit made an unseen mess of things somewhere).
It was the collaboration video where Summit won the task. As Solomon knew, this was a pure numbers game. Oli White had around double the followers of TheLeanMachines, so it’s no surprise that Summit generated twice as many views as Tenacity.
However, the real clincher would have been for either team to be promoted by Buzzfeed, which offered the biggest opportunity to drive the high volume of shares that would have sent them viral. If one team had succeeded here, they would have won by a landslide.
Despite the eventual closeness of the result, there’s no doubt that the right team won. Summit had a clearer vision which translated itself into the comical elements of their videos, they selected a good collaborator and, though unsuccessful, they pitched well.
Ella Jade undoubtedly brought back the right two teammates. Sarah and Steven were both abrasive, poor team players and had far more in their negative column than they had positive contributions.
Steven was a confident talker but was never able to put his point across persuasively and his volatile temperament made him unreliable. Sarah either had a good act going or was utterly self-delusional, and while she made for good entertainment she showed a lack of basic commercial sense on too many occasions. Both were ultimately fired for digging themselves into a hole in week one which they were never able to climb out of.
The only one who was at all unfortunate was Ella Jade. She did commit a fundamental error in being unable to translate her vision clearly, resulting in a confused set of videos and an alienated team. She was let down by a lack of business experience and the maturity to deal with disparate strong personalities.
So, after four tasks we have just one candidate with a 100% record: Jemma, who Sugar singled out at the beginning of the task for a lack of visible contribution. Here she came up with the Dare to Dine name and said she was responsible for managing the relationship with Oli White, which seemed to mostly consist of being nice to him and asking him to tweet a link to their videos. Is she being set up for a fall in the next week or two, or are we seeing the gradual emergence of a potential finalist? With a lot of the chaff now ruthlessly dispatched, it’s time for the genuine contenders to come to the fore.
Next time: The teams must create their own coach tours. Remember the London sightseeing tours task from season six, with Stuart Baggs at his blagging best and Jamie Lester telling tourists, “The river Thames is … the second largest river in London”? That.