The Apprentice – Week Seven: Advertising Cars

Nov 16, 2017 | #howtobeaPM, #howtowinthe apprentice, projects in plain english, the apprentice

Lord Sugar instructs the candidates to create an advertising campaign for a new car. The teams must produce a television advert and a digital billboard and  pitch their finished campaigns to industry experts.

Subject matter expert?

This week’s task asked the age old question, “does a project manager need to be an expert in the subject matter of the project”? The answer is of course not. We’ve seen this so many times on The Apprentice. That delicious moment when Lord Sugar briefs the teams and a candidate’s eyes light up because this is what they do every day in the real world. And we know that their fate is sealed.

Anisa appeared to be that candidate. She works in digital marketing, this was a digital marketing task and there was that light in her eye. But Michaela stepped forward and had no difficulty convincing the team that she should be PM, despite having previously led them to their only loss. No-one questioned the fact that in her day job she works for a construction trade magazine.

On the other team James took the reins. It transpired later in the show that he earned an obscene amount of money in IT recruitment but he knew something about cars as he’d started a car wash when he was 13.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Car Advertising Projects in Plain English

Michaela considers putting herself forward as PM, Charles is keeping quiet this week…

Allocation of roles

As we’ve seen before in this series, a project manager doesn’t need to be an expert in the technical aspects of the project as long as other people in the team have that expertise. The PM’s job is mainly to lead and coordinate the team. Allocating key roles was therefore critical in this task.  James’s decision making was dodgy from the start and he appointed Sajan to direct the TV ad on the basis that he had some experience operating photo booths. Over on Vitality,  Michaela had little faith in Andrew’s abilities and relegated him to the role of eye candy in the TV ad. He wasn’t happy. “I thought it was going to be Jason Staham kind of stuff”, he moaned.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Car Advertising Projects in Plain English “They’ve gone medieval! They didn’t have cars then did they..?”


With two separate elements of the ad campaign to create, the PM’s inevitably had to split their teams. But in this task it was essential that there was some coherence between the TV ad and the billboard. The challenge for both PMs was to delegate effectively but at the same time remain in control. Delegating authority doesn’t mean abdicating  responsibility, but that’s exactly what James did. Lord Sugar likened his management style to a passenger in a London cab who knows the driver is going the wrong way but just lets him get on with it. Spot on, Lord Sugar.

Leading from the front

Michaela was far more in control, although for a  moment she looked as though she had committed one of those basic errors we see so many times on the Apprentice. As soon as she insisted on leading the pitch I smugly tweeted that it would all end in tears. But Michaela proved everyone wrong and showed that sometimes it’s important to lead from the front. She was able to convince the industry experts that there was a least some continuity to her campaign despite a billboard that looked like an advert for a mini-break in Florida.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Car Advertising Projects in Plain English “Really annoying because this is not what we wanted …”

The result

In the boardroom James didn’t put up much of a fight, admitting that he had felt out of his depth leading the task as he’s really a “numbers man”. He seemed to be heading straight for the early cab ride home. Why a numbers man would volunteer to lead virtually the only task in the series that doesn’t involve numbers remains a mystery. Even worse he failed to identify that Elizabeth, who he’d allowed to run riot in the Norman village, had been a major cause of the team’s failure. Lord Sugar saw things differently and added her to the list of people going back into the Boardroom. The long awaited double firing seemed on the cards but as it turned out, Sajan can count himself unlucky to be this week’s only victim.



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