So we’re down to the actual final (although my telly tells me that there are 2 more weeks of postamble, during which I shall be forsaking blogging for my usual annual festival of quaffing Baileys Irish Cream). It’s a relief that Dara introduces proceedings from the “You’re Fired” studio, as it’s clearly only going to be 1hr of final followed by a load of lovely Dara mediated fluff, and besides at this point, Sugar being a product man as we all know (defunct computers, unpopular email phones, bendy nail files), we all know it’s obviously going to be Bianca (isn’t it?) so why not just stop now. After last week’s character assassination, Bianca has been wrongly accused of being robotic, but I still have fond memories of her taking down a shouty James with some wit and sass, rather than a clinical death ray (sure my memories would be even fonder had that occurred).
Of course, as it’s the final, Mark gets first to the phone (and has probably set booby traps to ensure this), and the pair are summoned to the Bloomsbury Ballroom, apparently a home of “high profile events”. On the way Mark manages to be smug and patronising (“I respect Bianca. Well done to her for getting here”) whilst fingering his ring nervously. Nick and Karren greet them as ludicrously over-dramatic incidental music announces the entrance of Lord Sugar who tasks our finalists with launching their businesses to a panel of experts at the same venue. They have to research the market, design the brand and come up with a promotional video to back up their pitch.
Sugar brings a small number of previous candidates as “help” (I’m bemused to see no Roisin, but maybe she would look too good and show the finalists up; I’m gutted to see no Stephen as he was hilarious) and we enter into an awkward school sports team selection process. Bianca wins the toss so gets Katie. Mark goes for Solomon. Bianca opts for Felipe (aww), Mark picks Sanjay , Bianca picks Lauren. Mark has an internal struggle over what’s left before selecting James, Bianca then goes for Daniel and Marks face falls (he clearly wanted Daniel to be the last kid picked and has just realised what remains) before he’s left with Stepford Sarah (“Welcome abroad, we need some beauty” he says sort of gallantly).
Even though Bianca supposedly got Daniel fired (Nope that was down to Daniel surely?), he’s right behind her, because he hates “Mark more”.
Bianca’s got a great idea with her accurate skin tone match tights, but everyone goes WTF? when she announces that she want to create 30 different colours and charge £35 per pair (as someone whose legs act like CFCs to the ozone layer that is tights, I would only pay £35 for a pair made out of chain mail). Lauren’s with me (“That’s a lot of money to be gone in one go”).
Mark’s online digital marketing company is really hard to get excited by (poor Solomon looks about to curl up somewhere warm for a nap), so he tries to get his team brainstorming catchy names (Solomon:”Splash?.. Sponge?..” Mark: Are you having a laugh?).
Over on Bianca’s team, Felipe likes “B Miller” as a name, and Daniel backs him up (“In France YSL probably sounds like Alan Smith”), but eventually she goes with Daniel’s suggestion of “True Skin”). It’s tough working with a team who don’t seem to understand hosiery (Katie: “I’ve never heard of two gussets to be fair!”), which perhaps explains Bianca’s unwillingness to completely delegate throughout the task. However, it’s slightly less forgivable when she dismisses the sage advice of a hosiery expert lady who loves Bianca’s clear selling point but thinks she should only have 6 or 7 colours and charge a fuck of a lot less. Bianca finds out that this woman’s top selling tights go at £20-25 so decides to drop her price to that of a probably established brand. Bianca’s all about the compromise so goes down to 15 colours (10 would be more sensible, no?) in the range, over twice what she’s been advused. Oops. Felipe helps her come up with some incredibly boring packaging. She drops the price to £24, but Felipe still thinks it’s too high.
Sanjay and Sarah are sent out to find potential clients for Mark’s boring company (Sarah: “What about funeral directors? They’re going to be making a packet! There’s always someone dying!”), and they realise from their research that they have to very quickly have to differentiate themselves from faceless overseas companies offering the same service. Sanjay (who suddenly seems to be useful in this programme) thinks that the personal element in terms of account management will work and James agrees, just so it looks like he contributed. Mark consults a posho branding agency about a business name, and whilst I’m convinced someone suggests “Chlamydia”, the name he comes out with is “Climb Online”.
The next day, Bianca recieved her True Skin samples, dyed by Daniel, Felipe and Laure, and loves them. She decides to name each shade after a fictional woman (e.g Jane etc). “In your professional opinon what colour would I be?” Daniel asks and Bianca again proves that she has a personality (“I reckon you might be a bit of a charlie”).
Felipe, Lauren and Daniel do some market research with actual women, who all love the idea of something that isn’t American Tan; but hate the packaging and the price (“More basic than luxury”, “If you’re selling colour then you need colour”, “If it was two in a pack I might buy it”, “I wouldn’t pay a fiver if it was in this packaging”). They all angst about breaking the news to Bianca and Felipe draws the short straw, but Bianca is adamant that the packaging looks “luxury” and only drops her price to £22. When the Katie edited advert is ready to show, Bianca sends away all the other candidates because they” be in the way” with their feedback and opinions and having eyes and ears shit, which Lauren thinks is pretty wanky and no mistake.
Mark’s video is shot in front of a climbing wall, and when it’s pointed out that he’s meant to be showing his personality as part of the USP for “Climbing Online” he loses it again, but somehow Sanjay manages to edit it to a version that Mark approves of (Mark: “Sanjay will never know how much I appreciated that” – erm he will you doofus, he’s in the studio audience watching this). Meanwhile in Shoreditch, the unlikely pairing of Solomon ad Sarah managed to convince a bloke from a hair and make-up academy that they would be worth spening £3,000 a month on to offer a bespoke service on. Mark is overjoyed and Solomon bigs up Sarah for being “charming”, but nobody wonders how much this “personal account manager” mallarkey they are all pushing will actually cost.
As the twats and vampires that constitute the “cream of business” flood into the Bloomsbury Ballroom, our finalists rehearse their lines.
Bianca’s still not listening la la la with regards dropping the price, and Nick Hewer points out, his mouth screwed up into a walnut of disapproval, that listening to the market is “the first rule of business”. She pitches True Skin quite well and it’s all glamourous models and the ad isn’t too awful although all she needs in it is a white coat to start harping on about the science of control top 10 or 20 denier tights in 15 tones and 4 sizes and erm matt or gloss (which works out to be like a million (well 240) permutations of tights – arggh!). The tights are aligned with women’s names to show how in touch they are (because that little ploy never seems patronising) and are aimed at the 30plus discerning woman, who Bianca admits have to have some disposable income to spend 20 quid on something that could probably last a day (or in my case seconds as I tend to go for the “stick a fingernail through the foot whilst you’re putting them on and hop about swearing and crying” strategy of putting on tights). A lady in the audience loves the product, but wonders, “why luxury?” why not to just anyone who needs it? Bianca is silly and says she’s not willing to compete with the mass market of five quid tights. “I’ll pay six quid” the woman chips in helpfully. Sugar’s bunch of harpy advisers aren’t completely impressed and suggest that for Bianca’s idea to work it “needs to be international” and that she “needs help on branding” – which make him pull a worried “will this cost?” face.
It’s time for Mark to start shitting a brick over the prospect of pitching to a much bigger room full of people than the one that reduced him to a coughing muppet. Sanjay calms him down, noting Mark hasn’t memorised his script (“you’re reading a lot”). Mark decides the only thing to make him look good is to put Solomon in charge of entertainment, and on cue our “ideas” boy comes up with the notion of dressing up James and himself as orange and blue gimpy dancers (Sanjay “I really can’t see you how guys didn’t get to the final”). His audience is comprised of “online giants” (sadly they don’t go “RAAHHH!!!”), who sit politely through Solomon’s cirque du gimps opener (“The orange dancer is a company not using Climb Online, the blue dancer is…” er yeah ok). Mark clears his throat worryingly, but as Karren looks at him aghast he gets his shit together and delivers a competent but very dull pitch to a room of probably competent but very dull people. The climbing wall video showing various businesses helped to get ahead by Mark with his guide ropes of search engine optimisation is like a Job Centre plus advert, but his promise to offer tailor made campaigns (“I want a mechanic to think he has his own marketing department”) goes down pretty well. Mark sees a business without digital marketing as like a shop without a front door and urges “Let me be your front door”, which nobody in the audience sniggers at, tsk.
Mark’s asked if the USP of personal service will disappear as the business grows but Mark insists he will be able to provide the same service to every customer by using his army of invisible pixies. A bloke from another marketing agency says Mark is marketing himself “into the past”, but Mark points out that he hasn’t heard of the bloke’s agency (cheeky!) and is “intentionally going back in time” as it is a competitive and changing business area. Good answers, and Sugar’s harpies agree, saying “if he will win it will be through grit and hard work” (and not stabbing his competition supposedly).
There’s some banter back in the boardroom with Felipe about his skeleton. Sugar likes “Climb online” as a name as it says what it does. Mark gets stick over his video stage fright (“I hear you were sweating more than Daniel’s accountant”), but it’s clear that despite the crowded market, Sugar’s veering towards Mark due to the £36K per year potentially already generated with the hair and face academy. “This can only work with massive passion” Sugar warns, and Karren steps in “which Mark has” – like she’s some fickle Olympian goddess who has suddenly decided to help him. Mark shows good project management skills and insists that “all the team contributed”, prompting glowing eulogies of what a pleasure it was to work for him by even the difficult and annoying members: James and Sarah – heck apart from Solomon Mark chose the worst team here, so it is impressed he got them working for him.
Bianca looks smug about her big colour range, but Lord Sugs reckons her concept could work due to its uniqueness, but the issue is the £20 price. Sarah chips in from over the table: “I wear tights every day, but wouldn’t spend more than 6 quid” and Bianca shoots her evils (“It’s ok to share your insights”). They’re all asked if she was a good PM, and strangely agree, well strangely apart from Daniel (“It’s a no brainer.. I mean Mark’s a lovely guy….”) who keeps up his ongoing mantrum with Mark.
Sugar points out that the distribution and manufacture would eat up Bianca’s money from day one, and she starts considering reducing the number of shades and sizes to what’s pointed out is only “90 variations”, and it’s clear she’s been blinded by fashion and not done her maths. Karren asks why she didn’t choose the mass market and Bianca says she wanted to go for “superior quality and lasting the test of time” but Sugar doesn’t give a monkeys about all that ponce (email phones anyone?) and suggests she would have to scale up in order to force her way into the luxury market who all have brand recognition whereas she has a picture of some legs.
Mark’s asked how he will staff his business and admits that he knows a load of nerds “who don’t shift from the computer all day”. Sugar’s not sure (“at least I have a product with Bianca, with you when do I see the money coming in?”) but Mark says something boring to reassure him, and says he’s set a minimum budget of £400 per month to make the service more personalised… who the feck is he paying a split of that to? Does his sales team consist of starving orphans and £400 buys the gruel?
Sugar’s very clear that whoever he picks will not get more than the £250K out of him and they have to make it work, and has a little huddle with Nick (“You always have been a product man.. you can make a fortune”) and Karren (“With Mark you get an exceptional individual” – oh now she LURVES him).
The finalists are called back in and given one last opportunity to sing for their supper.
Bianca has clearly finally taken her head out of her gusset and done a little thinking and says her concept is strong and she can “consider mass market or luxury”. Sugar goes “Aha you’ve changed your mind” and she responds quickly “I’m just saying there’s two options. I can do a higher volume for a lesser margin, but could make money more quickly. She knows the market and has run a small business and spent thousands on companies like Mark’s” – eh HANG ON, aren’t you advertising Mark there you daft mare?
Mark decides not to change the habit of the series and rather than bigging himself up he metaphorically wees over Bianca’s product (“It is a saturated market and is ONLY FOR FEMALES.. I see things at the bottom of bargain bins that look just the same.. it’s not even a comparison to my business”) he really is a massive bellend. Which is what this process is presumably all about finding.
Sugar still thinks Bianca has a good idea but that he will need to hold her hand through the manufacturing process (Bianca “You don’t need to!”), he thinks Mark is in “what I call the new world business” (Lord Sugar’s vision of the future being about 20 years out of date). His instinct says “product”, “but the devil in me says service industry” (it’s like how the decline of UK manufacturing began) and he, to absolutely nobody’s fucking surprise goes for Mark as his “business partner”.
Poor Bianca just gets to sit there awkwardly as Mark goes off to the hastily rebranded TAXI of WINNINGNESS to blether on about how stoked he is and how he never thought when he left his tiny Aussie town and his family of dingos that he would one day be sitting in a taxi.
And that’s it. All over with a whimper (don’t think I’ll be bothering with the extra programmes). I’d like to say it’s been great or fun or something, but in reality it’s been a bit of a chore once we lost the most potentially interesting character Steven (his flouncing might have reduced the tedium of the final). Also sadly Sugar announces that Nick Hewer is leaving the show because his face has stuck like that after ten years and his wife always thinks he’s farting.
Thanks for reading and have a lovely Christmas.
Whilst Mark won – here is my totally non corporate assessment of all the candidates:
My favourite Cute Bouncy Puppy Idiot: Solomon
Lovely, but bonkers: Felipe
Actually seemed genuinely nice and normal: Lindsay, Katie, Nurun
Should have had a better idea then might have won idiot: Roisin
Delusional Idiot: Daniel
Stitched up by Mark and could’ve done better, but did look a bit like a Bratz Doll: Lauren
Not listening idiot: Bianca
Flouncy Idiot: Steven
Bit dippy: Jemma
Aggression issues idiot: James
Stepford Wife Idiot: Sarah
Hoxton Idiot: Robert
Dour Idiot: Scott
Slightly Deranged: Pamela
Posh Idiots: Chiles, Ella Jade
Arrogant idiot that won and will probably end up doing the interviews next series: Mark