Week twelve: The Final
Broadcast 21 December 2014
Last week! Roisin crashed and burned with a bad business plan - but not as bad as Solomon's, who was laughed out of the boardroom! Daniel's was surprisingly good (apart from him making up an award for himself) but he was fired anyway, leaving a final two of Bianca vs Mark! Will tights in every skintone become the latest development in the saga of LdSralan dun a beauty? Or will Mark's SEO bsns get bought into and probably somehow joined up with Ricky Martin's recruitment thing? Will Bianca become the second-ever woman (after Stella) to triumph in a male vs female final two, or will Mark somehow overcome his villain edit to become trimphant? (Sidebar: isn't it weird how there's never been an all-male final? It's like the anti-Masterchef of reality TV)
As it's a special final evening, Dara welcomes us feom the YerHiyud studio, with the fired contestants and super-special bsns partners Tom, Ricky Martin and Dr Leah! Cue credits! Now I feel able to watch them I'm glad I didn't for most of the series, because they really were super-spoilery - especially around the skeleton issue.
6am and Apprentice Mansions is empty, except for the chilling ring of a phone. Mark answers it to the disembodied voice of NotFrances telling them to meet LdSralan in the Bloomsbury Ballroom in half an hour. Even though there are only two of them, it's deemed appropriate for them to have separate limos. Global warming what now?
Nick and Karen are waiting at the Bloomsbury Ballroom, 'leading venue for high profile events' when the candidates get there, and then LdSralan turns up in yet another car. Who is overseeing the budget for this show, John Prescott (totally topical joke)? LdSralan tells them their task is to launch their business, coming up with branding, product, video and a promo event and at the end of it, one will become his business partner. They'll be joined by the annual parade of losers: Sanjay, Sarah, Daniel, Katie, James, Felipe, Lauren and Solomon. Where are all the women? Bianca chooses Katie; Mark Solomon; Biance Felipe; Mark Sanjay; Bianca Lauren; Mark then pulls a total face at what he is left with before plumping for James. Bianca chooses Daniel and Mark takes Sarah because 'we need some beauty'.
Mark thanks the team for being with him and apologises if he gets stressed. Daniel says Bianca 'got him fired' (although also Mark, surely? And himself?) but he hates Mark more, so he's on her side.
Bianca tells her team about her plan of a range of tights for all skintones. Lauren says it's a great USP and Katie says it'll be like wearing tights without looking like it. Bianca says it's a 'high end, luxury' product so you're looking at £35 per pair. I'm sorry. Bianca, but what are those tights made of? It better be super stretchy and completely indesctructable, because I tend to ladder a pair of tights on first wear so if I was paying any more than a couple of quid, I'd expect something ladder-proof. THIRTY FIVE QUID? Daniel says he's never worn or bought tights in his life but he'll help Bianca as much as he can to defeat Mark.
Mark tells his team that people used to use the Yellow Pages, until a couple of series ago when they caved in and let smart phones exist. Now he wants to help small and medium businesses promote themselves online and his business is all about search engine optimisation and getting these businesses higher online rankings. Karren says he knows his business but now it's about demonstrating he can run it.
Branding time! Mark says catchy names and colourful logos are really important. Solomon comes up with 'a good one': Splash. Then sponge. Everyone laughs but Solomon thinks it's good. Bianca's team suggest B Miller or Bianca Miller. She says she wishes she had a better name. Daniel says Yves Saint Laurent sounds exotic to us but in France it just sounds like Alan Smith (!). Felipe suggests True Skin, which Bianca is happy with. Sounds a bit like a porno to me.
On the way to do market research, Katie says Bianca's identified a gap in the market but Lauren is worried about the price because if the tights get laddered, it's a lot to spend.
Sarah and Sanjay are out looking for potential clients. Sarah suggests funeral directors because they have to be making a packet as there's always someone dying. Totally deadpan. I've missed her. They go to small shops and a cycle shop owner says he constantly get calls for people offering SEO, as does a guy in a music shop who says they usually call from 'India and California'. Two untapped places for the Apprentice does Forrin in future series, right there. Sarah worries that Mark's trying to enter an already crowded marketplace. Sanjay says they have to find a way for Mark's business to stand out. A mechanic says what would make it stand out is a personal management system where you had a named person to speak to.
Daniel, Katie and Lauren check out tights shops. There's a brand with two gussets. Useful for conjoined twins everywhere! (/tasteless) Bianca goes into poncy Wolford and talks to the manager who is keen on the product and asks how many skin tones she'll create. Bianca says thirty. The shop owner says that's probably too many subtle differences and buyers are likely to only want six or seven. Nick interviews that Bianca's talking about a wide range with all the colours, sizes and thicknesses and that means a warehouse of stock that LdSralan might be reluctant to invest in, especially with Bianca's lack of retail experience. Bianca mentions a £30-35 mark and using luxury material. The manager says they are probably the highest price point in tights and their best selling products go for £20-25. Bianca and Felipe wonder about changing the price point, so they ring the sub-team and talk about reducing their price and offering fifteen colours instead. The other three, surrounded by disembodied mannequin legs, agree.
Sanjay and Sarah ring Mark and say the branding is key and they offer the mechanic's idea and Mark thinks personalisation is how to win the business. So basically, the unnamed mechanic has probably saved Mark's bacon here. James says what will make Mark's business stand out is Mark. Solomon plays with his hair and stares wistfully into the middle distance, probably thinking about his next invention.
With the designers, Mark and his team throw around some names and come up with Climb Online, which has no doubt made this climbing website much more popular in the past few days. The logo looks a horrible orange and blue globe with a ladder thing that wouldn't have looked out of place ten years ago, fittingly enough for this series. Sarah says it looks like Clim-Bon-Line (pronounced Lean). Amazing.
Mark interviews that the pressure is fine and he's coping but he has a lot going on. He tells the designers which photos to use and the team have persuaded the music shop man to pose for some reason.
Bianca's packaging involves a black and white pair of legs in tights. They look a bit like white legs, which is... kind of against the USP?
London porn! Back at Apprentice Mansions, Bianca's tights have arrived. The tram are pleased with the packaging and the colour wheels, with each shade named after a woman. Daniel wonders what shade he is and he's 'a bit of a Charlie'. Such scripting. Very edit. Much hilarity. Wow. Bianca asks if her packaging looks premium. I'm not sure it does. Felipe thinks the price is a bit too high for a new brand. Bianca wants it to be £24 regardless of what the team think.
Video time! Katie directs Bianca presenting a promo video. You chose Katie as director when you have Felipe, the creative master himself? Talk about not utilising your team's skillset, Bianca? Sadly we don't get an interview of Felipe crying about his misunderstood genius, either. Come on, editors, sort yourselves out! Felipe, Lauren and Daniel are pitching to some experts who like the idea but don't think the branding looks luxury and think you need colour on the packaging - they'd pay the price for two pairs, but not one. They think it's important to be TRUTH TELLERS to Bianca and ring her and say the branding and price have been problematic. Bianca interviews that she thinks the packaging is good but she doesn't want to price herself out of the market so she'll think about it.
Mark's promo is set in a climbing centre. The actors playing small business owners (/actual small business owners/randoms off the street) nail their lines and Mark (wearing a 'fetching' white polo shirt with the tacky logo on) fluffs his own lines again and then some more and more again. Oh, Mark. Solomon and Sarah anre pitching in Shoreditch. Somewhere Robert is flouncing. They talk about what the business owner pays (£3000 a month. Which seems a lot given you could probably learn to do SEO yourself without much effort, or get an employee to do it, but IDK, BSNS and that) and pitch their bespoke service and he says this is just what he's looking for. Well, that was all disappointingly competent.
Bianca and Katie choreograph their promo show to 'Vogue' and edit the video. At rhe factory, Lauren, Daniel and Felipe dye tights and try and get them to match the swatches, including a pair for Bianca. They hope that Bianca has taken on board the issues of pricing in the video. Bianca tells Katie she doesn't want the others to come and interfere with the video because too many cooks spoil the broth.
Mark puts finishing touches to his (horrible) branding and Sanjay is left in sole charge of the video edit. Sanjay interviews that Mark is using the team well and drawing on each of their strengths, as we cut to Solomon working on design.
Bianca's sub-team arrive with the tights and she's really pleased with their work. She says they can stay if they want to view the video but she doesn't want loads of voices and opinions so they can go home if they want. They snark at her and leave.
Meanwhile, on team Not Bitter, Mark says Sanjay did a great job on the edit. Team Bitter, on the other hand, bitch about Bianca sending them all over London. Bianca interviews that she feels a bit guilty but wants to make sure things are done her way.
Mark is nervous about his pitch and Sanjay reassures him it isn't like trifles, which he knows nothing about, this is a business he's experienced in. Mark interviews that he hopes he won't fluff it and he needs a clear head. Is this... the extent of Mark's journey arc? I find it really confusing - he's been presented all series as an egomanic arsehole and in this episode he's seemingly quite nice and team-spirited and a little bit humble, and yet no-one is commenting on how Mark has changed, or how they like him better now, or any of the things James and Daniel got in their edit.
Bianca's team are still discussing the issue of price. She says there's no way she is going below £20. On the way to the presentations, Lauren and Daniel think she'll do well because she's skilled. James asks Sarah to hypnotise Mark so that he gives a good pitch. I actually like James this episode.
At the Bloomsbury Ballroon, Mark rehearses his pitch and fluffs it again. Sanjay tells him to relax and breathe. Bianca choreographs her models whilst the team set up the room and rehearses her speech. Nick says Bianca is efficient and runs a good team but she didn't listen to market research which didn't like the packaging or price and he thinks she might be too headstrong and lose it.
Solomon and James put on orange and blue condom-style faceless suits and goof around and Sanjay says 'I really don't see why you two didn't get to the final'. Hee. Mark tries to rehearse his speech some more and Karren worries that he's put James and Solomon in charge of entertainment, which seems to consist of putting models in condom suits and getting them to mime, which is a strong throw-back to the surrealness of performances in finales of yore. In this anniversary year, I approve.
Bianca's event is competent and corporate and her video is clear and says what the brand does. Her logo includes a lot of skin tones, including... grey? I guess there's a burgeoning zombie market out there somewhere. She says the price point is still £20, which LdSralan balks at. She describes her target market as 30+, brand loyal and a little bit of disposable income. Oh Bianca, I fit two of those categories myself, but I'm not brand loyal at all, I'll go for whoever's offering me a good deal and I sure as hell won't pay £20 for tights unless they genuinely are indestructable. Her pitch is still professional. Questions involve people loving her product but wondering if she is pricing it too high and putting it out of the reach of people who need it. Bianca says loads of people sell tights for £5 and that people are willing to pay more if it's something they can't get elsewhere. So she basically admitted to charging people more because of their skintone? That's... a Twitter outrage waiting to happen, surely? Bianca says there are fifteen skintones and four sizes available (S, M, L, XL). A snarky woman in the audience points out that there are fifteen tones, four sizes, each in gloss and matte and each in 10 and 15 denier, so that's 240 different products in all. LdSralan rolls his eyes. Bianca says she doesn't think most retailers would buy all of those.
The team congratulate her for a good presentation and Bianca interviews that she's feeling positive. LdSralan talks to some of the audience. They think it's a good idea but for it to work, it needs to go global and she needs to think about the branding and the packaging more.
Mark;s show opens with the condom-clad dancers miming climbing and being stuck. It's hilariously terrible and therefore utterly appropriate. LdSralan facepalms. Mark enters to the music of doom wondering whether or not he'll fluff it. He does his nervous cough thing and pauses... and then is OK. His video is a little (/lot) naff but clearly gets across what he's offering and his pitch is also clear and competent. It's that standard Apprentice final thing when your final two are both pretty competent and their pitches are solid and it's... not very exciting. Questions include whether, if the business grows, they'll lose the bespoke nature and the USP. Mark says they won't. Someone else asks if this has already been a moment that's passed and his company has already done the same thing. Mark says he's never heard of that company (ouch) and yes, SEO has been happening for ages, but this is his background and he understands how the market will develop.
The team congratulate him as well. LdSralan's chosen audience members say he pitched well and to win in the area he needs grit and hard work but they think he can do it because he's got experience in the area.
Boardroom time! NotFrances sends them all through. LdSralan welcomes back the losers. Felipe says he was happy to be in Bianca's team. LdSralan asks if he ever built the skeleton, but we don't get an answer. We relive the Mark/Daniel hatemance some more as well. LdSralan likes the name Climb Online because it explains what the business does. LdSralan takes the piss out of James and Daniel a bit and says he heard Mark choked on the video. Sanjay says he turned it around and Mark did a good job. They talk about sourcing clients and the team say Mark managed them well. Mark says he was nervous at the pitch but once he got into it, he enjoyed it. LdSralan says it's a crowded market and to be successful, Mark needs to have passion. The team: 'which he does.' Sanjay says he has the experience to grow it. Mark thanks the team and James says Mark is a great guy, which Karren confirms. So Mark is... liked? After the whole edit of him being a knob? OK.
Bianca talks about the price point and how she came up with it and talks about the marketing. They look at the names. Karen (not Karren) is a pale white. LdSralan likes the uniqueness of the product. Bianca talks about the video and we get a joke about Nick fancying the models. Incidentally, Nick revealed before this aired that he's leaving, so bye Nick! Fare thee well on Countdown and whatever else you do! They talk some more about the pricing and Sarah says she wears tights but would never pay that. Karren says the leading brand can charge that because they're established. LdSralan says some of the figures (maybe from when there were more tones proposed?) hint at 720 variations of product. He talks about her needing to decide where to pitch and whether or not they're for all although he doesn't want to get away from the good concept. The other team members are behind it. Daniel says 'it's a no brainer' and everyone laughs and the loser candidates are dispatched.
LdSralan is concerned about the stock inventory and distribution needed for Bianca and thinks the £250,000 would be burned on marketing and inventory very quickly. Bianca thinks they couldn't manufacture everything until they had orders so they'd probably begin with just gloss or matte, not both, and only a couple of sizes at first. LdSralan says that'd still be around 90 variations. Karren asks why she didn't go for the mass market. Bianca says she wanted a good quality product, not tights that only last a day. LdSralan says high quality means scaling up and the market isn't waiting for her so she'd have to force herself into the market, but he doesn't see why it couldn't be for mass market. Oh Bianca, have you never seen this show before? You know how well luxury goods go down.
Mark talks about the type of people that do SEO and their salaries are around £25000 a year. LdSralan mocks the people that work with computers a bit. He asks Mark if he knows his costs as the money goes on people and sites, but where does it come in? Mark says you'd devise a strategy for each business. STRATEGIC. LdSralan asks how he can afford to do the bespoke service. Mark says he'd set a minimum price package of £400 a month and start small. LdSralan worries about the salary costs compared to income. This all feels a bit... like actual bsns talk.
LdSralan says neither of them can whine at him if they run out of money because he's not a bank and they need to make it work with the £250K investment. He sends them out for one last rumination. He tells Karren and Nick he's torn because they're both credible. Nick says Bianca has a great concept and it's a product and LdSralan is a product man - he knows how to do production and sales. Karren says all Mark needs to start the business is a telephone and he won't need much hand-holding. Nick worries Mark is a 'slow haul' guy and 'Alan' isn't. Karren says it's all about the credibility and service and Mark offers that very well.
NotFrances sends them in for the final time. Thanks, NotFrances! LdSralan gives them a last opportunity to pitch themselves. Bianca says her concept is strong and could be used for either a mass market or luxury proposition and you could do sales for £6 and compromise on quality - she wanted luxury because of higher margins but mass could give higher volume, so she's willing to change. She says she believes she's the right person as she knows a lot about the market and she'll put all her time in. She thinks Mark is a great person, but when she started her business, she spent thousands of pounds (more fool her) on SEO specalists who were unsuccessful.
Mark says it should come to him instead of 'the stockings' because that's a saturated market and 'only for females'. Oh, Mark. When your criticisms have all been that your market is saturated and Bianca's praise has all been about her identifying a gap, that's... not a great opening gambit. He says there will always be 'leggings'. LdSralan says it's a big market and Bianca says it's £2.3billion. Mark says his business can go global quickly and Bianca's can't (?) and there isn't a comparison between internet business and tights. He says Bianca has a business but he doesn't so this would be his sole focus and he wouldn't get distracted, and he knows his market inside out.
LdSralan says Nick pointed out that he's a product man, and Bianca has a good idea but he'd need to hold her hand in the manufacturing process and he wants her to remember she's doing the work, not him. He says Mark's in a 'new world' business but wonders if Mark can do it - he can see that Bianca's business would work but he's not sure about Mark's, so he'll 'roll the dice' to see what happens. So he makes all his decisions like The Dice Man? That puts some perspective on the last ten series. He says there's the sensible part of him that wants the product and the 'devil' in him wants the 'service industry'. He thinks they're both very good candidates but he's made his mind up and his new business partner will be Mark. No coat for Mark but a horrible little fist-pump and a bragterview about being stoked.
I don't really know what's been going on with the edit this series. It's like that time Tom won despite always losing in the tasks. At least Ricky Martin and Dr Leah had likeable personalities. But Mark, whilst a good salesbot, has always been set up as the series villain and tonight didn't really emphasise his 'journey' so it's... a curious way of doing things, anyway.
Still, that's it for another year. We'll no doubt be back next year with the replacement Nick and a new batch of hopefuls giving it 110%. Thanks all of you for reading, and all TWENTY candidates for making the identification of candidates EVEN HARDER. Merry Christmas all and remember to Clim-Bon-Leeen!