The Apprentice Recap: A Cactus Catastrophe
It’s the second episode of our bumper Apprentice premiere week. After struggles with April’s dictatorial leadership, Dan’s finances and Brett’s DAMN SPECIFICATIONS, how did Connexus do this week? And will Versatile keep up their winning streak? Here’s our recap.
Welcome to the Apprentice recap, and welcome to the Barbican conservatory. After some confusion from the candidates about what the Barbican is (yes, really), we meet Lord Sugar for a hopefully nicer and more pleasant smelling task than yesterday’s fish fiasco.
The two teams will be producing an advertising campaign, including a digital billboard (we have those in the UK?) and a thirty second advertising slot for a cactus-based shampoo product. The cactus part is crucial, he says.
The teams will be split boy/girl again for this task, so the boys return to Versatile and the girls return to Connexus, which makes my job of remembering which is which hopefully easier.
Connexus and Versatile are off to the offices of a top London creative advertising agency. It’s not clear why as they don’t seem to be receiving any guidance. I suspect the ad guys who usually use that room wanted to bunk off and meet the cast.
Firstly, the teams must choose product managers.
Charleine is first to the post for Connexus. She runs a hair salon, and is constantly talking about shampoo, she says. It goes unsaid that we know from yesterday that even if not selected, she will act as PM.
It’s a confident and passionate pitch, and I think she has it in the bag, until –
“This is not about shampoos in particular, it is advertising and marketing,” says one woman sternly. You won’t know her name, because she literally contributed nothing yesterday. It’s Aisha.
Aisha runs a hair extension business, launched a product, and filmed an ad which launched a whole viral campaign (strange, I can’t remember any viral hair extension campaigns). Unless Charleine’s got the same experience, she can park her butt elsewhere, she basically says. What a bitch!
And with that, poor old Charleine gets outvoted.
Having won the pitch to be PM, Aisha tells the group: “If anyone is not productive they will be coming in the boardroom with me.” It’s no surprise, considering her integral role in the last challenge.
Meanwhile, in Versatile’s headquarters, Richard makes a pitch to be project manager. He is the head of marketing agency, he says, so it only makes sense. No one argues, and we move swiftly on with brainstorming the shampoo’s branding.
There are plenty of helpful contributions from all of the team. Cactus is “quite deserty” says Joseph.
In the Connexus drawing room, the girls are discussing who to target with the shampoo. Vana suggests the 50+ market, because it’s the fastest growing in the US and the UK. The team unanimously agree.
After splitting into groups for branding and billboard, our self-proclaimed wordsmith Sam demonstrates his similarities to Shakespeare a second time with his alternative spelling.
It’s not wrong. It’s art.
After a short brainstorming session, during which the men briefly contemplate simply calling the product ‘Cactus’, they take the next logical step and decide on ‘Western’.
And the tag line?
“Desert defeating hair,” is the next mind-blowing contribution from wordsmith Sam.
The boys act as though this is the BEST IDEA EVER. Now let’s pack up. I hear the ad agency are at the pub across the road.
Buzzing from their incredible success, Richard phones the billboard half of the team and explains their vision of a man flicking sand off his hair. Do I really have to be the only one to say WE LIVE IN BRITAIN?!
The other half of Versatile are about as enthralled by this idea as I am. So they completely disregard it. Joseph suggests something far more captivating…
“What if the guy on the billboard has shampoo in his hair?! The foam to me … just says shampoo.”
Two incredibly innovative and unprecedented ideas in the space of two minutes! The Apprentice, you spoil us.
Meanwhile, Aisha unveils her idea for a product name: Secrets of the Desert. The girls aren’t too sure.
“It comes across tacky.”
“I don’t like the word desert.”
“I really don’t like it.”
Aisha basically says fuck off.
Next up the Versatile billboard boys are explaining their concept to the male model who will be starring in their billboard ad. Director Brett explains extensively how to wash hair.
Perhaps he’s reminding himself how.
Aisha’s branding team are arguing again. This time it’s over the model they will select for their billboard. It probably needs to be an older lady, if we’re targeting older women, the team say. Aisha thinks otherwise.
These are our “aspirational” models that older women will be able to relate to.
Ruth is “flabbergasted”. “I’m going to have to be in the advert,” she says, as the only woman in the target market there. I’m immediately excited.
The ad is Ruth being creepy again! Favourite.
The girls not taking part in the creation of the creepy video are briefing the bottle makers on their design, and one addition causes some argument.
“Maybe people won’t know that’s a cactus flower?” Vana dares to speak out. Perhaps there should be a cactus on their cactus product that Lord Sugar specifically said was all about the cactus. Perhaps.
No way, that’s ugly, says Dictator Aisha. Case closed.
Next the teams are getting their first glimpses of the mocked up bottle designs. The boys’ design is sleek, sophisticated and – importantly – looks like a shampoo bottle targeted at men. Hooray!
The girls’ efforts, however…
Natalie says what we’re all thinking: “It’s ugly. It’s not clear what it is on the package. It looks like a handwash.”
The ad is better, but none of the girls share anywhere near as much enthusiasm as the boys over what they’ve created. Joseph is particularly confident.
Seriously, everything Joseph says is gold.
The next morning, the teams must decide who will be leading the pitches for their products to top industry executives.
Charleine immediately steps up. As we know, she loves talking about shampoo. Surely she’ll get prime position this time?
Na na na na na na Natalie! Natalie pitches every day as an Account Manager, so she’d do this better. She gets Dictator Aisha’s backing. Sorry Charleine.
In revenge, Charleine spends most of the time doing the advert actresses hair asking them if they thought her ideas were better than what the other girls went with.
She probably has a point.
Prepare to watch through your hands, because next Versatile and Connexus are making their first product pitches. I have that excited sort of dread about me.
“Good morning everyone,” says Natalie. Long pause. “We’re delighted to be here today.” Long pause. Are you really, Natalie?
There. Are. Massive. Gaps. Between. Every. Sentence. Is. This. Annoying?
It’s embarrassing, but it’s NOTHING compared to the pitch from Scott “I-don’t-need-notes” Saunders in the boys’ pitch.
If that video is too painful to watch, Scott stumbles through his opening before completely forgetting his words. It’s horrendous. It seems to go on forever.
Lord Sugar calls the experts to ask what they thought.
The feedback is as follows: Connexus started well, but got boring. There’s no cactus on the packaging. Also, what the hell is the secret? Versatile had far more clarity in brand and message, incorporated the cactus well, and had a lovely synergy between the billboard and ad. However, everyone disliked the lack of an end result of how the washed hair would look.
And we return to the boardroom. Connexus are first.
Lord Sugar asks how Aisha got PM over Charleine. Aisha gleefully says Charleine was outvoted. Bitch! Sugar then asks the golden question: what is the secret?
“We were hoping the virtues of the cactus were not going to be a secret in the advertising campaign,” he says.
And Aisha doesn’t get away unscathed from the decision to use a cactus flower instead of a cactus on the packaging either.
No one knows what a cactus flower is, he stresses, sounding strangely like the girls who had reservations about the cactus flower in the first place.
And then there’s criticism of the advert:
Lord Sugar says he’s not sure who was giving who the massage and it’s then I suddenly realise that the mum DIDN’T give the daughter a personal massage before recommending some shampoo. The mum paid for a spa treatment. Aww.
It’s the men’s turn next.
There’s very little to criticise about the smooth campaign, so Lord Sugar focuses on the fact that the boys never showed the final product in the campaign. Instead of emerging a sexier young man, users of Western will apparently be stuck forever in the shower.
But ultimately there’s no surprise when Lord Sugar announces the winner.
There IS a surprise, however, at the praise they receive.
“In all the years that I have run this task in this boardroom, this has got to be one of the best,” says Lord Sugar.
The girls are sent to discuss their many, many failures.
They agree that they chose the wrong demographic and that there was no cactus on the bottle. Aisha defends all her terrible ideas by saying no one else contributed any other ideas. She’s right, there were no more ideas after she quickly shut down idea proposals.
And we’re back in the boardroom!
Aisha repeats herself stubbornly. No one had any other ideas. She finally admits maybe the cactus flower was wrong, but putting a cactus on the bottle wouldn’t have made it look any nicer. Having someone other than Aisha in charge of branding might have, though.
Natalie gets grilled from Karen over her “insulting” pitch, after saying people over 45 are scared of anything new.
Aisha brings Vana and Natalie back into the boardroom. Vana, because of her suggestion of the older market, and Natalie for a terrible pitch.
Natalie talks herself into a massive hole – much like the way Dan did yesterday – claiming she was poor at pitching because she hated the product, so they lost before the pitch. This causes Sugar to criticise her for allowing her selling skills to be swayed. I’m shouting at her too, because I’m genuinely worried Natalie might get fired instead of Aisha.
Thankfully, Lord Sugar sees sense: “Aisha, you came up with the name, you came up with the brand and you came up with the flower. You’re fired.”
Best decision ever.
The Apprentice airs on BBC One on Thursdays at 9pm.