The Apprentice: The guru is gone

By: Adrian Wilkinson

Date: 15 November 2010

This week’s Apprentice saw the two teams rudely awakened by Lord Sugar who arrived early at the candidates’ house. So early, in fact, that some of them were still in bed, and appeared downstairs before a Peer of the Realm, still in their night attire!

The task this week was to promote, through advertising, a new brand of household cleaning liquid, by producing new packaging, as well as a TV and radio ad.

Step up to the plate this week’s Project Managers – the battle of the northern giants! In the blue corner from Cheshire, Chris Farrell, selected because he was the only team member not to have been a PM up until now. Good selection criterion!

And in the red corner, from Manchester, the marketing guru that is Alex Epstein. Hot-foot from his roaring success in the fashion-selling project in the Trafford Centre, the previous week, Alex, whose quote of last week was “Be different. When everyone is zigging, you should zag”, saw this as his opportunity to shine! (Get it? Cleaning liquid – shine!)

Given support from one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, Chris’s team produced a nice pastel-shaded bottle, a passing reference to an octopus, and an advert that came straight out of the fifties. Talk about cheesy.

Meanwhile, Alex — “if I were an apple pie, it would have oranges inside” — brainstormed with his team, and finally selected a name and concept that he said wouldn’t work, and which he didn’t believe in!

The final product came in a black bottle with a red top and was called ‘Germ-n-ator’. Judging by the design, it should have been called “engine oil”.

So now to the exciting bit – making the advert. Why is it that every year when this task is set, it seems to bring out yet two more budding Arthur J. Rank characters, who on this occasion were Chris & Chris – a bit like Saatchi & Saatchi!

After scripting and filming, each team had to pitch the new product to a selected audience of advertising industry gurus – you know, mates of Alex “I am a guru” Epstein.

The ads were shown and the teams departed to allow the audience to tell Lord Sugar what they thought of them. Which was, it turned out, “not a lot”!

Back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar announced that Chris’s team had triumphed – but it was not so much that they had won, but that the others had lost. This is known as the “best of a bad bunch syndrome”.

The final showdown saw Alex pitted against the rest of his team. And so it was that Alex “yes Lord Sugar, no Lord Sugar, three bags full Lord Sugar Epstein, brought Chris and Sandeesh into the boardroom with him. Yes, Sandeesh, making her second appearance in two weeks, even though she was credited with having done a good performance at the industry pitch.

Lord Sugar soon dispatched Sandeesh back to the house, because he, along with millions watching the programme, couldn’t believe what Alex had done.

After further deliberation with Karren Brady and  Nick, who really ought to have his own show sometime — The Many Faces of Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar pointed the finger. Alex, you’re fired!

And Alex’s parting words? “Thank you Lord Sugar, it has been a pleasure to meet you, and likewise Nick and Karen.”

The guru is gone!

Adrian Wilkinson is the owner of marketing consultancy Image and Profile

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