7.7 Freemium Magazine Launch
I’ve worked out that I can’t win.
The first week of this series of The Apprentice, I wrote the reviews dry. In the comments, what do I get? That you preferred it when I was drunk. So, purely for that reason, I’ve spent every subsequent episode under the influence, and last week, I’ve been (rightly) criticised for banging on about my drinking.
It’s a fair cop: I have. My excuse, aside from the fact that I had been drinking, was that this series of The Apprentice has been just a little on the dull side, enlivened by the occasional episode, but otherwise a slave to an increasingly familiar formula. Even the change in mechanic, that the winner becomes a business partner rather than an apprentice, doesn’t actually seem to have changed anything. Baron von Sugar is still bladdy shouting at them as he always did.
This week’s ingredients, aside from some stuff from my local Spar that I’m not going to tell you about, were variants on a theme again. This time, it was selling advertising, effectively. The big difference was that it was coming up with a free magazine, and selling advertising in it.
The invisible parameters of the show were perhaps a little more obvious than usual. Just as a few weeks ago the two teams both made apps based around a couple of pictures and making noises (with a recording studio ready booked), as if they had one template to work to. This week, two focus groups had already been arranged, it seemed. One, a student rugby team. The other, a group of over 60s. For them to be brought together so swiftly should, perhaps, be raising questions over how much freedom each team happened to have.
I also wonder if part of the task was dreamed up just to antagonise Nick. This, as Baron Alan’s one-liners have got progressively worse, has been the highlight of each episode for me. Nick has long since taken a dislike to Jim, and the two at loggerheads allowed him to explore his gamut of expressions. None of them offered any sign that he was impressed, although he did a blink-and-you-miss-it smile at one point.
It turned out to be an interesting task. Natasha was leading one team, whose name I’ve once again forgotten, and she decided to do something modern, up to date and cutting edge, by opting to do a free lads magazine. Jim? He went for the over 60s market, with a cunning plan to patronise, share the decisions around, and avert the killer gaze of Baron Alan. This week, his plan would fail.
Natasha anyway, yeah, actually came up with a good name for her magazine, yeah, and, after the focus groups wanted a more evolved lads’ magazine, yeah, she tried a publication that had load blowing, business tips, and a woman in her pants on the cover. Yeah. She said yeah a lot, too. Uber.
Still, her team’s focus group seemed more productive than Jim’s. With Glenn and Susie, and a group of over 60s, they aimed every cliché at their target market, who promptly smacked them all straight back at them. Then it came to names, which again gave Nick the opportunity to look unimpressed. The eventual winner? Hip Replacement. The problem? When the actual magazine itself was put together, any irony was long since lost. The battle was thus between a medical journal, and something from 20 years ago.
Whoever the publisher of Viz magazine is, incidentally, must have been very pleased with the number of plugs that particular publication got this week.
It perhaps goes without saying that both Covered and Hip Replacement looked quite terrible. Yet, putting a magazine together, from concept to dummy in a day or so? Well, they were being set up to fail, really.
Onto the pitch to the advertising agencies, and I think it’s fair to say that the three companies showed some leniency in their decisions. I can say with some conviction that neither publication would have garnered such potential spending from advertisers had this not been a telly programme, but the pivotal mistake, as it proved, came early on. And it was Jim, refusing to budge from the rate card price, which ultimately cost his team the task.
Not that you’d believe it come the boardroom battle. Out came his scariest eyes. Out came his Jedi mind tricks. Out came his winning ability to cover his backside. And, I figured, out would come the firing finger of Baron Alan. We also got, I should note, Susie, saying all the right things again, but with nobody listening to her. It’s a tradition, and her defensive boardroom rant is almost becoming a catchphrase, we’re hearing it so often.
I’d like to tell you at this stage that when the treat came up, that I didn’t hit the bottle. So I won’t. But you surely can’t blame me. It’s the worst thing the BBC broadcasts, My Family included. Bloody fencing. Glug.
After the usual babbling of baloney in the boardroom, then, the world’s worst lads’ magazine beat the world’s most insulting publication for the over 60s. And Jim decided, in the end, to take 21-year old Susie and Glenn (a social secretary at a football club, no less) into the final battle. Which was really quite good.
And it’s here that Jim took a pummelling. He’s a control freak. He’s passive aggressive. His eyes frighten people. The target was appearing on his head. He lost two Christmas cards this year before our eyes.
So who did the Baron fire? Well, getting in about how brilliant he was when he started, he pointed his finger at Glenn (because, er, he’s an engineer, rather than he screwed up). Arguably the first firing this series done with the viewing figures in mind. Jim and Susie live to fight another day, and next week, it’s a trip to Paris, to flog some British shit to them. We’ve been here before, if memory serves.
Now? I’m off to try and find a copy of Hip Replacement to read. And for a drink. A lot of drinks. Yeah.
Read our review of episode 6, Rubbish, here.