Is The Apprentice destroying marketing?


Is The Apprentice sending out the wrong message? We ask a seasoned marketer, Gerry Ryan and a student, Zoë Bradley what they think of Bill’s cullings.

YES, “You’re Fired” writes Gerry [read here]

NO, “You’re Hired” writes Zoë [read here]

Marketing – You’re Fired!

Forget madmen, The Apprentice makes marketers look like lunatics, writes marketing man Gerry Ryan

Marketing: Bunch of chancers and incompetent spoilt brats, shooting in the dark and flying by the seat of their pants? Watching The Apprentice, you might think so. The perception of the marketing industry seems to be: we do everything slipshod seconds before presentation; we don’t know the difference between strategy and creative; we go to photographers and focus groups without any concepts and ask them if they have any. And we tamper with the client’s logo without even knowing it! Well, we marketers don’t like them apples.

Serious discipline

Can’t Bill focus on some other business disciplines? Couldn’t the candidates tackle an IT or HR task? Perhaps ask them to come up with a viable economic solution for Ireland? Or learn to pilot a plane? Or perform heart surgery with Bill mixing things up a little and announcing “you won’t be using scalpels boys and girls but knives and forks”.

How hard can it be to find another sector to belittle?

It can’t be as hard as writing a memorable slogan, for example. Of course, the young go-getters of The Apprentice last year reckoned: “how hard can that be?” Remember? The strap-line they delivered for Samsung was ‘Live. Enjoy. Dream.’ Then ‘Live. Every. Dream’. Then ‘Love. Every. Dream’. They couldn’t even remember it themselves!

Marketing’s a serious discipline. It can change consumer behaviour when delivered properly. It can even save the lives of the poor and helpless around the globe that we help fundraise for every day. But you wouldn’t think it from watching The Apprentice.

Job interviewees from Hell

The candidates call themselves team players, but they arrogantly shout over everyone else to get what they want. They’ll take full credit for a job that gets praise and heap all responsibility onto someone else when it goes wrong. And they delegate tasks like disorganised, blue-arsed flies.

Worst of all, they’re rude when presenting concepts – defending their bad ideas by shouting down the client and trying to blatantly bullshit and spoof them.

Ssh! Marketing managers might be watching

According to Emma Everard in Mediaworks, 408,000 adults over 15 watch The Apprentice regularly: including 207,000 ABC1 adults. Are these viewers left with the impression that advertising is just a joke?

Watching them brainstorm ideas is as unintentionally hilarious as seeing a tone deaf delusional on X Factor who can’t accept that superstardom is not in their stars. “What’s easy to use?” they ask. “An abacus is easy to use!” Brilliant! Or even better: “how about a piece of cake with the line ‘it’s a piece of cake’.” Astounding. It’s like Spinal Tap for marketers.

After all, who needs robust planning, sharp insights, challenging clients and defining the key measurements of a project when you’ve got entrepreneur turned creative Barry (the genius who tells us he regrets spending 150k on a car during the Celtic Tiger).

“I haven’t seen it before, so it must be original”, he says, talking about portraying products as animations i.e. M&Ms. His face fell when the client called his idea ‘repetitious’ – but it didn’t stop him the following week from painting one of his teeth blue to highlight a ‘Bluetooth’ feature on a phone. Maybe he hadn’t seen that idea before either…

If this chancer represents the perception of marketing out there, I’m off selling penny apples. How hard can that be?

Marketing – You’re Hired!

The Apprentice isn’t making a mockery of marketing, it’s promoting it, writes student Zoë Bradley

Every Monday night, hundreds of thousands of us sit in front of our TVs and do what comes naturally to most of us – judge others from the safety of our front rooms. This most entertaining activity has been increasingly seen as a thorn in the side of the marketing profession. As a student myself, I see it in a different light.

Brand Awareness

Firstly, I think the show increases awareness of marketing itself and emphasises its importance in business. Even Bill says it! The marketing aspect is invariably a key element of every task. Often the success of the candidates is judged on the amount of sales the team has made and certainly those with the best marketing strategy invariably win the challenge.

Take for example this year’s current Irish Apprentice. In the second episode the teams were required to make a radio advert and design an original menu for a new diet service. Though both teams were slated, the girls won by the skin of their teeth – why? Because their marketing strategy was deemed to be absolutely spot on. So the show itself highlights the importance of getting your marketing strategy right. Many entrepreneurs consider their product to be so fantastic that it needs no advertisements, relying merely on word of mouth. However I think that the show demonstrates how a great marketing strategy can really boost a product’s performance.

With more people becoming aware of the possibilities created in the marketing world, more people will enter the market which will help promote greater competition and higher standards.

Dog-eat-Dog world?

Undoubtedly, it is the bitching and backstabbing in Bill’s boardroom that has most viewers hooked, and some say this damages the industry – showing today’s youth that to get ahead you must be bolshy, selfish, arrogant and all-in-all an unlikeable person. However, these contestants can be viewed as being a horrible warning as opposed to a good example. In fact, ridiculing these foolish figures is one of the most entertaining aspects of watching the show! Watching them shoot themselves in the foot through their bad behaviour could only be an incentive to act in the polar opposite. Who would actually in their right minds hire some of the idiots on this show??

Fast, Cheap, Good?

Showing the teams strategising, recording and presenting in about two days could be misleading to the public and make marketing look like it’s done quick and cheap. But any marketing student knows a job can never be fast, cheap and good – you will always have to compensate on one aspect! This is hilariously highlighted often throughout the series. Could anyone really look at the standard of the work presented by some of the teams and applaud?

Who could not agree that professional marketing is the way to go, when watching episode 6 of the current UK Apprentice where a housewife dresses up in a ridiculous octopus costume. I’m sure that 50% of viewers ran from the room screaming!*

The Apprentice can only be good for the industry. It emphasises the importance of a good marketing strategy in all business ventures; it highlights how teamwork wins over self-important egotistical maniacs; and if seeing an octopus in your kitchen doesn’t convince you that the job is best left to the professionals, then I don’t know what will!

Finally let’s not forget that Donald Trump himself wanted The Apprentice to be educational as well as entertaining. Even if it’s just learning what not to do!

*not based on any actual figures/realistic analysis.

Gerry Ryan and Zoë Bradley, Dialogue

7 Responses to “Is The Apprentice destroying marketing?”

  1. Good point. But maybe now marketing managers will be less inclined to ask for one or two day turnarounds? After seeing the rushed results, it’s obvious that a good campaign – even a good idea needs time for conception and execution. Just my 2 cents. Thanks, Rachel

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