Sometimes, when you lose someone early on, you get the impression that a handful of people are just too good for the world. Something about their raffish charm and twinkly brown eyes being beyond the capacity of the amount of goodness this world can actually handle.
On the other hand, some people are all mouth and no trousers, dress foppishly in order to distract from their empty personalities and have a decent vocabulary which isn’t backed up by any substance. Raef somehow had it both ways… being both a grade ‘A’ bullshitter and also an apparently lovely bloke. Rather sad to see him go – he was certainly this year’s Nice Contestant. We’ve not got much left to work with, after his exit.
We’ve got Lee – loaded with common sense but prone to unblinking twattishness and we’ve got his ex, Lucinda who is a lovely leader but a pain in the arse when asked to follow. We’ve got Alex who, despite his protestations about being a Sales Manager with an international remit, whatever that means, is all over the bloody shop. We’ve got Helene, who is dripping with awfulness. We’ve got Michael Sophocles who walked out of a sitcom and into the boardroom and then we have Claire, the one who won’t stop SHOUTING ABOUT HOW SHE WAS RIGHT.
Sophocles treated the ladies to the sight of his naked, miniature frame as he answered the phone in enormous boxer shorts. Frances was on the blower, predictably enough, and she told them they were off to the National Theatre. ‘I’ve got to step up’ said Sophocles in a split-second vox pop, his neck riddled with shaving cuts.
When they arrived at the National, Nick and Margaret waited patiently as the briefing kicked in. Nick did that weird thing with his face. I think it’s meant to signify impatience but it actually looks like he’s trying to hold back a huge flood of diarrhoea.
Alan changed the teams about, as is his wont, and we ended up with Raef as team leader over Claire, Helene and Michael – the latter having been refused his plea to lead a team this week. The same old method used by desperate contestants to stay in the show. I DO BETTER NEXT TIME MUMMY. PROMISE! On the other team, Alex was to lead just Lee and Lucinda – who at this point were still very much in love.
They were asked to come up with a name for a box of tissues, as well as suitable packaging, a print advertisement and a 30 second television ad. Quite a lot of work for two days, so Alex’s team sat down to brainstorm. And they brainstormed really badly, with Alex totally non-commital, Lee in a bad-idea-frenzy and Lucinda coming out with some utter crap. When coming up with names, Lee barked ‘WHAT ABOUT SNOT’? ‘COSY-NOSE?’ ‘COSY-NOSE IN THE CAR, COSY-NOSE IN THE PLANE?’. At least he tried.
Lucinda seemed hell-bent on sabotage and suggested gathering the pink pound with snot-rags aimed at gay men. If they’d have done that, they’d have reduced their market by about 90%. So probably a good thing she was roundly ignored, despite her assertion that Alex was ‘worse than useless’. Her whining cost her the love of her life, as Lee Cold Eye McQueen finally seemed to dump her through the medium of swearwords.
Rather than do anything so insignificant as research and planning, Raef picked up his little pal Michael so they could be driven around the West End and talk of their thespian pasts. We learned that both had extensively trodden the boards – Raef as Sebastien in Twelfth Night and Sophocles with a singing part in West Side Story. Cue: Dodgy recitals of lines and show-songs. Never before have two birdbrains looked quite so preening. This culminated in Michael singing one of Fagin’s numbers from Oliver – and it was horrendous.
So, Alex’s box was designed and, good grief, in comparison to the others’ it was a thing of unbounded ugliness. An orange monstrosity with irrelevant stock photos and bad fonts. It was the Cillit Bang of tissues. The television advert was almost brilliantly awful. The mother figure was accepted after an awful audition in which Alex asked them to ‘freestyle for a bit’. Her reaction was to whimper like John Inman in a man-trap. The actual TV ad involved this whimpering and a father who was on the money as cheesy-ad-dad. At one point, he grabbed his ‘daughter’s’ nose and tweaked it so melodramatically it looked like he might wrench it off, stuff it in his gob and spit it out in a fountain of gore. The ad was so garishly orange and pink and ridiculously heavily branded, they might have handed victory to Raef before they reached the edit suite.
Might have, were it not for Raef’s Sophocles-buffered pretension. Their ad featured Sian Lloyd for bugger all reason (even SHE said they should’ve googled her before booking her) and for only about five seconds. In their mini-masterpiece, a couple of children shared a tissue (unhygenic) and then smiled as Ronan Bloody Keating warbled in the background. It was well-shot in every way but one. There was no branding, whatsoever. Not one logo, one mention of the brandname or even one shot of the box – a shame as the packaging was pretty impressively well-made by Claire and Helene.
Right from the start, it was obvious that branding was of the utmost importance, so how they could have forgotten to stick in a logo and deemed a close up of the box ‘vulgar’ reeks of a complete lack of awareness of how advertising stripped to its most basic elements actually works. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, but for a businessman or a ‘tycoon of tomorrow’, it’s actually disastrous.
And so it was that Raef made a fundamental error, and it was with ‘all due respect’ that Alan told him he was full of hot air. And though it’s not very nice, it’s true. He was a likable statue, an affable ghost, a respectable spectre. But he hardly had acute business acumen. The ladies will miss him, I’m sure.
Sugar had a ball in the boardroom, sarcastically dubbing Sophocles and Raef the next Spielberg and Fellini, telling Lee he was mind-numbingly boring, laying into Alex… Rather than have anyone read out the scores, he simply launched ‘YOU LOST. YOU LOST’ at an unsuspecting Raef, telling them off for doing 95% of the task and leaving out the main product point – a call to action. And quite right too. He then told Alex that his ‘crap advert had won’, having a pop at the box, the clip and the print media while Alex smiled at the criticism, safe in the knowledge he’d lived through the trauma yet again.
Despite Raef’s eviction, Sian Lloyd probably came out of this episode worse than anyone else. Not only did she suffer the indignity of appearing in one of the worst pieces of advertising ever made, she also had the mickey ripped out of her by Alan - with his sly Cheeky Girl references. Add that to having been dumped by that lip-twisting turd, Lembit Opick and you have to say that things aren’t going too well, eh love?