HR & Management

Six of the more humorous tasks given to The Apprentice candidates

12 min read

13 October 2015

With series 11 of The Apprentice kickstarting on 14 October, we recall six of the show’s most humorous tasks – and the terrible products and embarrassing adverts that came with them.

Over the course of The Apprentice’s history, there has been no shortage of cringe-worthy moments. However, none have been as awkward as those produced by some of the more unique tasks presented by Alan Sugar – such as creating a new flavour of ice cream.

Here we present six fun challenges that went horribly wrong.

(1) The episode where only one person didn’t need to rely on the guide book

In season ten, Sugar tested the candidates by giving them a task that focussed heavily on teamwork, preparation and management throughout the day – all of which are factors that entrepreneurs need a firm grasp on. The goal was to set up and run a coach tour, taking Londoners out to two tourist sites. This was rather different to the product pitches that they had done since the start of the season.

Team Summit, headed by senior banking manager Sanjay Sood-Smith, created a historically themed trip around castles in Kent, while Tenacity, led by pub quiz planner Daniel Lassman, settled on an “English experience” in Oxfordshire. 

Once on the coach, it only took James Hill five minutes to don a plastic crown, demand everyone call him “King James”, and lead a chorus of One Man Went To Mow that had The Apprentice advisor Karren Brady staring at the emergency exit.

Apart from Hill’s added rendition of The Wheels on the Bus, Sood-Smith managed to get lost and only arrived at the destination at closing time.

And who could forget Mark Wright explaining that the packed lunches they provided “could kill a brown dog”, and that operations manager Jemma Bird was unable to offer basic facts about Anne Boleyn – she pointed out a “photo” of Henry VIII, who died nearly 300 years before photography was invented.

Below you can find a sample of what led to her demise in the episode.

Solicitor Lauren Riley was praised for her exceptional tour of Blenheim Palace, which seemed to surprise even her team mates. She didn’t rely on any notes – or the guide book – and answered all tourist questions to the best of her ability without emphasising/mentioning that she wasn’t the expert.

(2) Octi-Kleen and the show’s most sexist ad campaign

In series six’s advertising task, the emphasis lay on creating a campaign for a brand of kitchen cleaner. It sounds simple given that it involves the basics of creating a successful business. This would require much research, branding a product and finding a target audience. 

What made this advertising challenge stand out, however, was that it involved cleaning products – arguably one of the hardest items to advertise as it is easy to fall on stereotypes.

This was highlighted by the fact that neither teams truly understood their market audiences.

Team Synergy created a multipurpose cleaning product called Octi-Kleen, backed up by a spectacularly sexist TV advert. Jamie Lester’s pitch to the ad agency was also a cringe-worthy performance.

Apollo’s campaign, despite having a better advert and a cleaner pitch presented by Sandeesh Samra, was felt to be a total failure in getting across the key features of the product, as well as having an unattractive bottle and carrying what was considered an even more inappropriate message – such as children using cleaning chemicals! As a result, team Synergy were named the winners.

(3) Organising corporate bonding events was a recipe for disaster

One of the most bewildering episodes in The Apprentice history was when Sugar tasked them to organise a corporate “away day” for regional managers from Barclays Bank and lastminute.com that included events aimed at improving “motivational and communication skills”.

“This is not some jolly,” he warned. “This is a business task.”

Of course, the point of the exercise may be simple and fun in comparison to most tasks set out on the show, but much like the advertising challenge, left many in confusion.

Evolve went for a “Back to School” theme, and although their event ran reasonably smoothly, they had activities that had little to do with school or business – including wine tasting and cupcake decorating. Even Sugar wondered in vain where the business message was.

The majority of Endeavour also wanted a school theme, but Leah Totton went against the team and decided on a history theme – before changing it to an army theme after meeting with the client. Of course, Totton was afterwards criticised for ignoring everyone else.

And in an attempt to demonstrate how conflict can get out of control, the team decided to embed sumo wrestling into the day. Her teammates dressed up in sumo suits and barrelled into one another – something Sugar wasn’t too keen on seeing.

Read on to find out more about the board game meant to make you a relationship guru – but maintains that all women only eat chicken salads and hate rock music.

(4) The game that made absolutely no sense

The task set by Sugar in season ten’s sixth episode was to design a brand new board game, then sell it to retailers across London. Everyone gets to show their creative flair and research ability, right? No, seemed to be the answer for team Tenacity.

Tenacity went with a dating board game, which they named “The Relationship Guru”. It soon became clear that most of the team disliked the idea, but Pamela Uddin ignored the negative feedback from market research and the game’s test group – the latter of which felt the game was offensive – while most retailers hated it due to the questions Daniel Lassman devised.

To win the game you needed to correctly answer questions written on cards. If you got the right answer in green, you moved forward three spaces. If you got it partly right and chose the answer in purple, you moved two. If you picked the red answer, you got it wrong and moved back a space. Nearly all questions were deemed sexist, which may seem bizarre given that they were made by the director of a pub quiz company.

For example: “Women dislike which food the most – pizza, carrots, or chicken salad?” and “What do men dislike the most – vegetables, waxing or cricket?” Women also apparently don’t like classical or rock music, and only want expensive things for anniversaries.

Uddin was fired for ignoring market research, backing an awful and flawed concept with a doomed premise, and trying to place blame for the failure of the task solely on Lassman’s questions.

Read more about The Apprentice:

(5) When one team arrives at a tester meeting 30 minutes late and instead has a few slightly drunk pub-goers tell them which product to go with

Developing new flavours of ice cream was perhaps one of the most complicated challenges that the candidates had been given, but they took to it with much gusto – and an interest in somewhat unique tastes.

Team Alpha decided on “Avocado and Chili” and “Toffee Apple” flavoured ice creams after a focus group meeting. However, two of the members promised exclusivity to a restaurant for three months – violating the task rules.

According to Sugar, if Alpha had won, he would have disallowed it due to sales to cinema and pub chains being done on an exclusive basis; deals were supposed to open up new markets for farmers. He also criticised Alpha for choosing shop managers that made their own ice cream – feeling it showed a lack of strategy.

Of course, with most tasks, the importance of research and logical thinking was highlighted. When it came to team Renaissance, Michael Sophocles showed how it was meant to be done by arguing that the previously opted for booze flavours wouldn’t prompt mums and dads to buy it for their kids at the cinema. 

Bank manager Kevin Shaw gatecrashing a yoga class to find product testers was also summed up as a no-no in the business world – they looked at him as if he were a sex offender.

(6) The team that didn’t know they were overspending

Once again, the teams were tasked with creating and making a new product from scratch. This time it involved two bath and beauty products. The humorous element to this task comes in the form of whether the candidates were any good at playing alchemist.

In the case of team Empire, led by human resources consultant Paula Jones, mixing up oils was not their forté.

Find below, for your viewing pleasure, the priceless moment when Empire discovers that they have used oil that costs over 1,000 pounds a kilo – of which they used 450g. To their horror this landed them in a deficit later in the boardroom!

The sub-team manufacturing the products made a serious blunder by spending over £700 on essential oils due to thinking that three per cent of the formula meant 3g of oil would be required, and then mixing up cedarwood oil with the much more expensive sandalwood oil. 

Empire only realised their mistake after Nick Hewer pointed it out, and failed to recoup costs despite good custom that enabled them to increase prices.