Five ways the Apprentices could have driven the car task

“Welcome to Ford’s creative design hub,” announced Lord Sugar in Wednesday night’s edition of BBC’s The Apprentice, with no subtlety surrounding the brand whose product would be so heavily featured. “This task is all about advertising.”

Cars and advertising: right up our street.

What was to follow was a master class in how to get marketing completely wrong.

Moreover, it was a valuable lesson in the dangers of not running an integrated campaign with clear communication between sub teams (though it was an ingenious product placement for Ford’s new Fiesta – on the BBC, no less!).

Five ways the contestants should have approached their task:

  1. Fail to plan, plan to fail

It’s all too easy to cut corners when setting out a communications campaign. The planning phase is essential. Spend time on the getting the basics right: who is being targeted, what is being sold, on what platform is it being promoted, what are the USPs, what are the brand’s characteristics and messages? The contestants were all in a flap vying for different markets, different concepts and messages with no thought to what they were ‘selling’. 

  1. Identify your audience

There appeared to be a lack of cohesion when deciding on the target market for the product. Understanding what you are promoting is paramount to developing a relevant and resonating campaign. Whether it’s females under 25 or families, the product needs to be fit for purpose, and the messaging needs to marry up accordingly.

  1. Market research

Listening to feedback in the early stages is important. Don’t just think what you have done is perfect, because it won’t be. Ask for input, opinions and thoughts – and more importantly listen to them. If someone doesn’t ‘get’ your concept, neither will your audiences. If someone suggests Miami sounds like a holiday destination rather than a car, they might have a point…

  1. Tailored content

If the Apprentices spent as much time tailoring their content as they did their suits, they would perhaps get further in the ‘process’. Content doesn’t automatically translate from TV ad to print, editorial to digital. There should be consistency from one to the other, of course, but there is always a degree of tailoring required. 

  1. Going digital

The Apprentice teams failed to make the most of their London Underground digital campaign, demonstrating a lack of understanding of how to engage that particular audience – commuters and tourists primarily. Like an elevator pitch, escalator advertising has to be short, succinct and memorable. There was also a total disregard for social media elements – not a single hashtag or digital slogan (although we dread to think where #Expando would get you…).

The crucial element of any communications campaign is to know your audience and to understand how to talk to them in an appropriate tone, through the right medium and with engaging, resonating content – and then of course to track progress and results with analytics. If you can’t do that, you might as well be herding geese…