2005-03-17

An Apprentice Catchup


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Now that we are exactly halfway through Apprentice 3 (give or take a compilation show), it's time to catch up.

When last we were with our merry band, five candidates had fallen by the wayside:
Hands-off Todd left Magna (the book-smarts) after the Burger King challenge; Brian the Brash left Net Worth (the street-smarts) after the hotel renovation challenge; Verna decided she couldn't go on and left Magna before the third mission; Indecisive Danny was fired after Magna lost the Nescafe event challenge; and finally both teams' efforts at making a Dove Body Wash commercial were so poor that Donny Deutsch was unable to declare a winner. Net Worth's Kristen lost the resulting board room free-for-all after her team members began turning on each other and her.

5. Mobile Business: Each team was given an Airstream trailer and $5K with which to start and run a mobile service business.

Net Worth, led by Tana created an open casting workshop based on Angie's promised expertise, which turned out to be quite underwhelming.

Bren took the reins at Magna, and led the team in creating a mobile massage service.

Both ideas turned out well, but after a slow start, Net Worth won by a narrow margin.

Michael's arrogance and lack of effort finally caught up with him. Earlier in the episode he had bragged that he was just like Trump. Quote of the episode, Trump (to Michael): "How stupid can you be? You claim to be just like me? You're nothing like me. I work hard!" And with that the Donald sent Michael packing.

6. Grand Turismo 4: This was my favorite episode so far. In it we finally got to see something of Tara and Craig on Net Worth, and Alex on Magna.

The teams were tasked with hiring an artist and helping to create a grafitti advertisement for PS2's new racing game, Grand Turismo 4.

Net Worth's project was probably the more artistic of the two, and that was the whole problem. From the outset Tara was intent on creating a community statement, rather than commercial art. It turns out that Tanya had not even taken the opportunity to play the GT4.

In the episode's key move, Alex stepped back and starting soliciting ideas from bystanding PS2 fans. He got some great input, incorporated the ideas into his team's grafitti and it made all the difference.

The focus group had little trouble making their decision. Magna's design clearly articulated the product and generated enthusiasm for it. Net Worth's art, on the other hand, was uninspiring, and not even clear as to the product being promoted.

In the end Tara was fired for her lack of focus on the product and task at hand.

7. Mini-Golf: Each team had to construct and then manage for one day a miniature golf course on the Chelsea Piers.

Audrey, still stinging from her teams' attacks on her in the last board room stepped up to be PM for Net Worth and inherited a mess. We quickly found out that Audrey is still a little green, but even the Donald would have had his hands full with this bunch. There was Chris, who scared more kids than he attracted as a clown with a dip of tobacco in his lip. John, who had been butting heads with Audrey since the last mission, was passive-agressively giving the PM enough rope to hang herself. And, Audrey was all too happy to oblige as she seemed unwilling or unable to make key decisions regarding the allocation of her team's time and effort.

For Magna, Kendra correctly identified that marketing would be the key to the task and came up with two brilliant maneuvers that ultimately propelled her team to victory. First, she cross-promoted their attraction to the children who took lessons at other venues on the piers. Second, she made these promotions exclusive, thus cutting Net Worth off from a potential customer base.

I applaud Kendra, who along with Alex is one of the few people I suspect really has what it will take to win this, for her thinking. I don't know if Magna won because of Kendra's specific strategies, or simply because they actually had a concerted marketing effort. Net Worth had their heads so buried that they certainly would never have come up with the cross-promotion idea.

Audrey didn't turn out to be any better at defending herself in the boardroom and became the game's eight victim.

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