The Apprentice – episode 7 – The Magazine task

But who this week would be lost at sea and thrown overboard by the captain of industry, Lord Alan -Pugwash – Sugar? As the Lord descended in the obligatory glass elevator, I couldn’t help but wonder; where was he descending from so early in the morning?
Fleet Street seemed, for once, an appropriate place to launch this week’s challenge of creating a premium, free paper; a ‘free-mium’ if you will  (I’d rather not thanks).
The thought of having to come up with, not only the concept of a new magazine and then creating it would be hard enough, but to also have to sell the concept to “three of the country’s largest media houses” (well I had heard of two of them)  who in turn would recommend the new rag for their client base to advertise in, was a daunting task to say the least.
The teams were mixed up once again with Jedi-Jim leading Venture and Natasha leading team Logic. At the offices of the latest free-mium sensation, Shortlist, the brainstorming got under way. 
In a short time both teams had discarded the baby and pet sectors and chosen their audience; Venture went for the over 60’s and Logic for a Lads’ mag with a business twist; more “how to get a great job” as opposed to “how to get a blow job” – you get the idea.
So the audiences were researched and, as always, they were pretty much ignored. This also often happens in the real world. If you keep researching, you will eventually find a group that agrees with your approach or you can simply ask questions that give you the answers you want to hear: “so you say you don’t like it, but if post nuclear holocaust, there was only one tin of this left, and you had to eat it to ensure the survival of the human race, you would? I will put that as a yes then”.
I’ve spent my fair share of evenings behind a one way mirror watching market research groups enjoy the triangular ham sandwiches more than the new advertising concepts before them. I question anyone’s opinion who takes part in these groups just for the chance to feel important and drink weak tea in their own time.
But back to this week’s task. Off the groups went to bring to life ‘Covered’  (for the entrepreneur in every sex-obsessed 21 year old) and ‘Hip Replacement’ (for the blue pill popping crowd).
I’m not sure I even understood the Covered name – but then again, I’m not target audience. And with Hip Replacement, I thought Zoe was onto something but it was lost in translation. Maybe if the approach had been ‘HIP -The  Replacement magazine for trendy over 60s’, it might have worked. Is it worth mentioning yet again that timid Susan did disagree with the name but not vocally enough. No, I covered that last time.
Ignoring if you can the terrible cover shoots for both mags – the “confessions of lost in the 90’s secretary” shoot and the “I’m 90 and confess I’m lost” shoot for HIP – then the actual internal execution of both mags was competent and other than a rogue headline in Covered  (“blow your load”), both did the job. The issue with HIP was the dilution of the creative execution. Had it been done properly I think it might have been the winner.
It reminded me of my old life and role as Creative Director. In Zoe’s case, she may have come up with the concept, but then unfortunately handed over control of the execution to ‘Jedi so we all agree don’t we Jim’. He then moved away from the ironic concept and diluted the whole idea, killing it quicker than a Harold Shipman emergency call out, with his knitting pattern cover.
One thing I learnt from working on brands such as Damart and Saga Holidays is that everyone thinks of themselves as being 10 years younger-at least. So for the 60s market; don’t show people in their 60’s, show early 50’s or cool bus pass carrying glitterati – there are many to choose from.
Remember the old adage ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’? Well that may be so, but you can usually tell how much it costs and in the case of HIP, you would be hard pushed to give it away for free – as the team found out.
So the pitches came and after a hot reception from Carrat, Natasha wanted to do both of the consequent pitches- glory hound or pitch bitch? In the next pitch to MediaCom she stomped all over Leon’s hesitant presentation but after being met with a cool response from the media house, she looked less than happy doing the final presentation on her own – regardless of how enthusiastic she seemed or how she punctuated every sentence with “yeah” to emphasise a point that didn’t capture the same level of enthusiasm from her audience.
Jim’s team Venture, who were rapidly retreating from the HIP concept, couldn’t wait to throw their hat in the ring to not pitch and left Jim as the one best placed to present the magazine. This tactic was uncovered in the boardroom later as Jim highlighted his team’s  ‘cowardice versus contribution’.
So off Jim went, and although the execution and name were met with as much joy as an incontinence-ridden aunt popping over to stay for the weekend, all the media brokers saw a gap in the market where a ‘hipper’, less patronising magazine may be welcome. 
So to the negotiation… the negotiation Jim! There he was in the heart of the lion’s den of media sales, where every minute of the day is focussed on deals and  commissions (surely everyone knows that you don’t pay rate card? The standard in my day was 17.5% discount and whatever you can get away with), but Jim stood there and didn’t budge and that was his downfall. Should we mention again that Susan said ‘slash the prices’? No, let’s not bother. 
The remaining pitches went in a similar vain but despite Jim finally conceding to some prices reductions, the damage was done. The low point possibly being when one media exec admitted that on seeing the name ‘ my heart sank and my colleague’s jaw dropped” – which sounded like it could be a possible piece of editorial for HIP replacement. 
In the end, Natasha’s team and their magazine Covered won the day with Carrat saying they would buy the whole magazine exclusively for their clients. And Caratt just happened to be the media house that Jim offered no discount to so consequently they bought none of HIP’s space. A real double whammy which, not only speaks volumes about ‘ Jim’s naive approach, but also a lot about the sort of clients Carrat have on their books.
So what did we learn from this week’s chapter in the saga of becoming the new Apprentice? 
Regardless of the usual team dynamics (or lack of them), the usual back-stabbing and transparent one-upmanship, the point that stays with me is – always stay strong to the original concept. 
As you and your team develop a business idea and proposition, re-visit the original concept. Are you holding true to its main aims, its focus, its messages, its audience, its benefits and its USPs? 
If not, get it back on track, even if it involves going back a stage or two. In your original brainstorming or pitching of an idea there should always be drama. Yet through each stage of development and with each new person involved, there is a dilution of that initial drama so if you are not careful, by the time you hit the streets with your new brand, you have nothing but a pale shadow of what you set out with. 
HIP sadly became anything but
HIP and the strength of Covered, albeit very cliched in an over-exposed, ahem, market, was that it still had some commercial appeal to some brands.