From the in-team bitching, to the cringe-into-oblivion TV adverts, to the resultant insults from Lord Sugar, advertising week stands as one of The Apprentice’s top episodes. It’s the one that acts as a kind of fail magnet, consistently pulling out the worst ideas from each batch of candidates. And it’s on tonight.
But before you’re treated to another crash course in how not to get ahead in advertising, here are the most memorable (ie the worst and weirdest) TV ads devised on the show.
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The horror of the first ever Apprentice advertising task – Series one
Here it is: ground zero. 12 years ago The Apprentice aired its first advertising task, with candidates asked to cobble together a campaign for Amstrad’s new Jukebox music system. Impressively, this led to adverts that somehow look more dated than the product itself.
You can see the losing effort from team Impact – an advert involving a dancing granny and spotty teenager, all shot in style of a ’90s CBBC sitcom – at the 36.20 mark:
The, um, overly-relaxed plane passenger – Series two
The second series of the Sugar-thon introduced what would become a popular theme of Apprentice ad week: unnecessary sexual connotations. It’s all thanks to a short promo video for Sir Alan’s new venture, the Amsair travel Card, which featured an elderly gentleman appearing to, shall we say, mishandle his hand luggage mid-flight.
Raef channels his inner-Spielberg – Series four
Alongside Lee McQueen’s reverse Pterodactyl, the fourth series will always be remembered for firmly establishing another Apprentice advertising mainstay: taking it all too seriously.
The Ronan Keating soundtrack. The forest green colour palate. The childhood love story. Project manager Raef ‘the gent’ Bjayou pulled out all the stops for his ‘I heart tissues’ campaign. Well, except the actual product. But who really cared if the box of tissues only appeared on screen for a second? Answer: Alan Sugar, who promptly handed Raef the firing finger in the boardroom.
Pants Man – Series five
Don’t even pretend like you don’t remember this one. At best it was a misguided and zany cereal advert featuring a cartoon tighty-whities-wearing superhero. At worst it was a cry for help from estate agent creator Philip Taylor, who despite losing the task continues to this day to insist that Pants Man was a good idea.
The Octopus cleaner – Series six
It’s the advert that not only proves that sex doesn’t always sell, but that a sexy octopus is definitely not a thing.
At first the campaign from for ‘Octi-Kleen’ from team Synergy was based on the premise that whoever used the cleaning spray could become a domestic goddess (you know, just like Octopuses aren’t). But then the whole video goes from odd to sexist by depicting a husband sitting on the sofa waiting for his wife to finish the cleaning. And then the line “eight hands and definitely better than two” followed by a wink.
Just to clarify, this was the best idea from five functioning adults.
Creepy Herbert – Series nine
This is it: the creepiest Apprentice advert of all time. It stars Welsh eyebrow connoisseur Alex playing Herbert, a kind of gothic Stig of the Dump and appointed brand ambassador for Cufflinks dating agency.
He’s supposed to represent the weirdos you can encounter with other dating agencies, but instead represents everything that Apprentice advertising week produces: an awkward car crash of creativity resulting in 30 seconds of film that will permanently scar the CVs of all involved.
Fat Daddy – Series ten
You remember: Felipe’s ‘daddy fitness programme’, the Rocky-style health-booster for the Rocky generation.
This one’s significant for one reason: although Apprentice candidates have put themselves centre-camera in adverts previously, none can ever match lawyer Felipe’s self-degrading and questionably fat-shaming video that led to three candidates shot down by Alan Sugar’s firing finger. RIP Ella, Steven and Sarah.
The Apprentice returns tonight 9pm, BBC1