Posted: Fri 14th Oct 2016
At the end of the first episode of the latest series of The Apprentice, the winning team got to experience a dance lesson from Swing Patrol. After his business appeared in the show, we thought we'd ask founder Scott Cupit to watch the second episode for us and share his business lessons.
'Ichiban'? Wasn't that the lipstick for men that Joey Tribbiani from Friends once advertised? That was just one of the cringeworthy moments from episode two of this season's The Apprentice. We saw Jessica's team arriving at a photoshoot for their product having forgotten the product. We saw Karthik try to bully his way to be sub-team leader and editor of the TV advert. All hard to watch.
"" The Apprentice (@bbcapprentice) October 13, 2016
Of course, The Apprentice is edited, and we mostly see the candidates at their worst rather than their best, yet we did see some good things in this episode. Rebecca got on with being professional after being hoodwinked out of the PM election and pitched extremely well. Courtney's response to seeing Mukai fluff his pitch was: "I'd really appreciate if we don't mention that to him, is that OK?" Mukai knew it was bad. There was no point rubbing it in. Courtney wanted to dissuade his team from criticism so as to maintain momentum and morale.
The advertising task is a favourite of both Lord Sugar and fans of The Apprentice, but it's also one of the most difficult, particularly this series with the introduction of a new format, the social media interactive digital outdoor poster. It's easy to sneer or laugh at the performance of the candidates on The Apprentice, but no one should underestimate what the two teams had to achieve within a few days. They had to come up with a new brand, not just a name and a logo, but a strapline with a tone of voice, identifying values and personality to relate to a target audience.
They had to develop three advertising formats, two outdoor ads and a TV advertisement. In the ad industry, certain specialists, often at different companies, will work on each of these formats, so getting a team of relative novices to achieve something competent in such a short time scale is a huge challenge. Then there's the packaging, a crucial marketing element for the luxury market, and again generally developed by specialists in the real world. Finally, there's the pitch to advertising professionals; people whose everyday job is to conceive and critique creative ideas. It's far from easy. I don't envy them.
All things considered, the brand names, logos and the packaging weren't so bad. The ads, on the other hand"¦well. Lord Sugar couldn't endorse either of them as being a winner. Outdoor print advertising is a significant driver of new students to our dance lessons. They serve a pretty simple objective, but a great deal of both science and skill is required to develop effective outdoor print ads, which is why I delegate it to people with far more talent in this area than me. It's not just about identifying the audience, but actually understanding how to communicate to them in the right way. That takes choosing images that are inspirational as well as aspirational; incorporating colours and typefaces that communicate the fun and joy that is the end benefit we seek to deliver; and then copywriting concise yet compelling calls-to-action.
I think that's what The Apprentice candidates' final ads were missing. That's not to say that those skills or talents don't exist in the teams. If you look at their CVs, there are extremely relevant skills within both teams: Dillon is an art director, Paul owns a marketing company, Rebecca owns a marketing and design company, Jessica, Team Nebula's project manager for the task. is an operations director for a PR and marketing agency as well as owning an online fashion company, and Mukai, Team Titans' project manager for the task, is a digital marketing manager.
So with the abundance of those skills within the teams, the advertisements should have been great, regardless of the time constraints. So what went wrong? Why didn't these talents emerge? Well, it's the problem of The Apprentice process: the desire to personally impress overtakes the common good of the team. In particular, the creative process within advertising is rarely a solitary process, it's a team activity, which is why many professional ad creatives work in pairs, and why communal activities such as brainstorming are so important when conceiving marketing plans.
The bus shelter adverts ...the public were more interested in reading the bus schedule
"" Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) October 13, 2016
It looked as if both Jessica and Mukai wanted to try to shine as the "do-ers" in all the elements of the task that they considered most impressive or high profile. Instead, they should have focused on being effective project managers and getting the best from their teams. They were in the leadership positions to set their teams' ethos, goals and identify talents.
In terms of Team Nebula, after seizing control through a rather confused election process to become project manager, Jessica lost control within an hour. Then she started undermining Rebecca, her sub-team leader, criticising her behind her back to other colleagues. Even out of earshot, such gossip and criticism is harmful to the cause. It also didn't seem to be warranted criticism, as Rebecca appears to be one of the best performers. Perhaps Jessica's negativity about Rebecca was to solidify her own leadership credentials, but it came across as her weakness rather than her strength. Thankfully her colleagues reined her in. Her leadership credentials were totally busted on the task when her colleague Trishna said behind her back: "Let's try to pull this together. We can't rely on her."
For Team Titans, whilst delegating is fine, discarding all responsibility, control and communication is not. That's what Mukai seemed to do by refusing to take a call from the branding subteam led by Dillon. That set the tone for the relationship between the teams. Each sub-team hadn't agreed on the fundamental tenets of what their brand was about, and creating ads without understanding the brand just wasn't going to work. Having ended a phone call abruptly, Mukai then complained about not having any information from Dillon's sub-team about when models were arriving to the photo shoot. When trying to phone Dillon, the calls went straight to voicemail. Dillon was far too busy with the models to answer the phone. In a time sensitive task, keep your phone on.
Both PMs decided to swap the teams around for the next stage of the task. Swapping teams around can be a good thing if it's to prioritise skills, ensure personalities get on well together and to achieve the task in the best possible way. However, both the PMs just seemed to want to direct the TV ads. No matter how good a business owner is, or thinks they are, rarely do they have the time and talent to be the best at everything. Being a business leader doesn't mean being able to do everything yourself or needing to stand out.
More than just creating ads, this task was about getting the best from your team to come up with something creative, to meet deadlines and deliver a compelling pitch. For me, the lesson the candidates need to learn is to listen their colleagues so they can bring out the best in them. That means relinquishing some of their self-interest and egos. That's the biggest challenge for The Apprentice candidates.