Last night’s programme kicked off with the bleary half-awake Apprentice contestants taken to ad agency TBWA where we found Nick and Karren standing in front of a freakishly huge bristly ‘big brother’ screen face of Lord Sugar telling the teams their mission, before self-destructing in “3,2,1…” No, not really, but he should have done. There are seventeen million pets in Britain, apparently, and simply not enough brands on the market. Cue – the perfect opportunity for Teams Logic and Venture to come up with a ‘new’ product and then create an ad campaign around it. Something exciting, cutting edge…
Well obviously none of those things. You’ve seen this before with breakfast cereal. We know that the teams will create a bloody awful name then cobble together an unholy amalgam of some of the worst and most clichéd advertising strategies ever made. Do branding and advertising agencies watch these shows and piss themselves laughing? I hope so. I would.
Team Venture was led by Glenn and Team Logic by Vincent. They got together to ‘brainstorm’ and the puns were falling thick and fast. ‘Thick and fast’, in fact, would have been every bit as good as the names the teams actually came up with. The ideas that sadly fell by the wayside included Vincent’s suggestion of something one letter away from one of the biggest brands already on the market – ‘Pals’. Jim used his Northern Irish accent to great effect when suggesting an excellent pet porn name ‘Fur Play’ (they sure missed a marketing trick there). Logic’s sub group of Leon, Zoe and Helen were filled with pride at coming up with the ‘Lucky Fish’ name (Leon: “Shall I just become the Apprentice?”). But we then saw their happiness balloon shot down with callous disregard by team leader Glenn as they stood forlornly holding the phone up in a supermarket aisle. It became clear that he regarded actually listening to the feedback of pet owner focus groups (and therefore the work he had set his sub-group) as being pointless. Anyway, he had already decided on a charming concept suggesting body conscious pet owners extend their own neuroses about weight to their cats, and plumped for ‘Cat Size’ (cats eyes, geddit???) with a strapline so bloody awful and grammatically excruciating that I was actually gnawing the television screen: ‘see their light’.
Logic, led by Vincent, who of course had the advantage of looking like a cartoon dog, also decided to go against all focus group advice (and that of dog owner Ellie) about targeting food towards a particular size of dog and go for ‘universal appeal’ with the name ‘Every Dog’, with the not-cliched-at-all strapline – ‘has it’s day’. I was slightly surprised no-one suggested an offal-based product called some variant on the Dog’s Bollocks idea, but I digress. Vincent seemed to be operating under some kind of hypnotic spell cast by Jim, who was the one who suggested the name, and indeed concept. I’ll say it now, however creepy, arrogant and up-himself Vincent has proved throughout the series, Jim is a man whose behaviour really gives me the willies. It’s the eyes. If it came out in the paper that he had been under suspicion of crimes involving tempting old ladies to part with their life savings, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Anyway, back at the auditions. Knowing as I do how obsessively some people feel about their pets, this held some amusing moments. Especially the homicidal look in the eyes of the owner of the hairless cat as Leon gigglingly dismissed it as ‘not suitable’. The team went for the plentiful, hairball-inducing locks of a cat called Ruby in the end. With the dogs, we learned that the amazing bouncing Jack Russell had form, on Midsommer Murders apparently. I’m not sure if it actually committed the crime. But it was cute, and so was chosen to star in an ad directed by a similarly amazing bouncing Natasha. The co-star was a golden retriever whose coat reminded me of David Cassidy in his heyday, and whose key skill seemed to lie in eating the dogfood with the voracious enthusiasm of an animal who hadn’t been fed for a month. Every labrador I’ve ever met can do this.