There’s a fascinating conundrum facing the makers of The Apprentice next year. By 2010, Sralan Sugar will have become a Lord. What, assuming he keeps his role on the show, are next year’s collection of contestants supposed to bleat in unison to him? “Yes, Lord Sralan”. “Good morning your Lordship Of Amstradshire”. Or maybe they should go the whole hog, bow, and call him “My Lord”. Ah, decisions, decisions.
You still have to wonder just what business lessons the new Lord Sugar has been drafted in by the Government to teach. Setting impossible goals and berating young, inexperienced candidates when they fail to meet them? Growling and generally being miserable at the first opportunity? Injecting businesses with such a pervading focus on negativity that only the clinically insane would consider it a good place to work? On the basis of The Apprentice, that’s just what he’d do on day one. And that’s before we get to the decision he made at the end of this final episode.
Truthfully, I’d not been looking forward to this final, courtesy of the media bleating about how it was an all-female final episode, and thus spurring on articles about whether the glass ceiling had been shattered. That kind of argument would assume that the show bears much relation to real business life, when plainly, it doesn’t Then we’ve had the two finalists poshed up in the papers as part of the hype machine, and it confirmed that – and I know I’m naïve for holding out hope otherwise – The Apprentice is now fully a reality show, rather than anything with any kind of business message to give.
Enough of that, anyway. There’s one question in my mind here: how the fuck has Yasmina just won The Apprentice? How, after an episode where she came up with a crap product, a crap advertising campaign and generally failed to particularly impress all series, has she emerged victorious? Serious, and it’s nothing personal, but if Gordon Brown was watching that, surely he’s thinking of revoking his offer to Lord Sralan. At the very least, a phone call to find out what’s going on wouldn’t hurt.
Meanwhile, Kate’s product was excellent. She managed to prove time and time again that she could make the right decisions at the right time, and did it without rubbing people up the wrong way. The business lesson here is pure and simple: if you want to get a job working for Lord Sralan, you don’t need to be the best candidate, you don’t need to have the best product, and you don’t need to have the best campaign.
Let’s rewind a little, though. The task this week pitched Kate and Yasmina against each other to design a box of chocolates, and come up with a marketing plan. Then both candidates would have to present said chocolates to an industry panel. You know the drill by now.
As part of the process, out came the previous candidates, and both got to choose who they wanted on their side. Interestingly, Kate avoided the option to pick Phillip, and had seemingly pulled a masterstroke when we cut to him trying to train dancers for Yasmina later on. Pantsman lives again, clearly.
The two teams got to work, anyway, and Yasmina’s team had an idea to appeal to men. They looked at a brand that women would buy for men, but the focus groups soon put them off the scent of his one. Granted, Yasmina – with some justification, as we’ve noted in our reviews right throughout the series – has been proven a victim of the editing over the past weeks, but for me, this was the only area where she genuinely impressed this week. She, half way through day one, realised it wasn’t working, and instead opted for Cocoa Electric instead. That what was a brave decision, and cut the already tight timelines of her project even further.
Cocoa Electric, we learned, was a box of shitty tasting chocolates that, according to the advertising campaign, would give you an electric shock when you ate them. The box looked quite impressive, but the highlight was Margaret tasting one of them, and looking like she was licking piss off the nearest thistle. It’s fair to say that few were impressed with the product.
Kate’s team, meanwhile, was quite innovative. She opted for a chocolate brand that would appeal to men and women, with a third tray to share. The box continued the innovation, too, with a three drawer concept that looked interesting. And while, perhaps, her fatal error proved to be the pricing (which was roundly criticised), her product was interesting. She even managed to jump into the advert production at one point and add a proper ending to it. Nick, in particular, seemed really quite bowled over.
Her wisest decision may have been to chance the name at the last minute, though. Intimate, as many noted, had more seemingly in common with feminine hygiene products, and the last minute change to Choc D’Amour was a wise move.
When it came to the presentations, Kate again – and I had no preference for either candidate, to be clear, but just judge this on what I saw – managed to deliver a slightly nervous but generally good presentation. Yasmina’s? It had me cringing on the sofa. It didn’t seem to flow, and at this point, I remarked to my wife that this felt like Manchester United playing the local school under 5s team at football. There just seemed little way that Kate could lose.
And then she did.
What puzzles me, however, it that I fail to see the logic in the ultimate choice that Lord Sralan made. What was it about Yasmina that he preferred? Was it that she had her own business? I honestly thought that when he was going on about toughest decision ever, and how he felt bad putting Yasmina’s staff out of work, he was just bottling looking someone in the face and telling them why they’d lost. That, or trying to make it look dramatic.
And that’s why, ultimately, The Apprentice is now 100% reality show. For it to have any educational benefit to the world of business, which was there in the original intention of the show, you have to have some inkling as to why the final decision was made. But it was never really explained, and were this a scripted drama, we’d be talking, surely, about a cheat ending just to put a twist in there.
Maybe Yasmina was right. Maybe she’d been more the victim of the editing more than we’d thought. Because, and this may just be me, on pretty much every criteria in this final episode, Kate seemed to do better than Yasmina. Congratulations to her, to be fair, but that doesn’t make me any the less puzzled.
Lord Sralan? You may just be a genius, and you may save British business single handedly. But I still haven’t got a clue why you did what you just did. Still, we may or may not, depending on the accuracy of the newspaper reports this morning, be seeing you again next year. And I suspect that I, despite this odd final episode (and generally middle-of-the-road series), be back again in front of my telly too…
Check out the review of the last episode here.