Maybe They’re Right

Maybe They’re Right

Did you see the ‘interviews’ episode of The Apprentice last week? Neil Clough, the guy who was country miles ahead of the other (frankly, dreadful) candidates, got knocked out. His business plan was rejected – no make that annihilated – by the rottweiler interviewer Claude Littner, but he refused to back down.

Claude: “You’ve got no chance.”
Neil: “I have.”
Claude: “You can’t compete with them.”
Neil: “Yes I can.”
Claude: “It won’t work.”
Neil: “It definitely will.”

Later, in the boardroom, Lord Sugar told him his plan was rubbish but still he stuck to his guns. “It don’t bloody work!” bellowed the pint-sized Spurs supporter. “I think it can” responded Neil.

It got me thinking about advertising and how our entire working lives are based around how we deal with rejection. Your partner doesn’t like your idea; the CD blows it out; the planner doesn’t think it’s right; the account director thinks it’s off-brand; the client says it’s not right for the sector. We face these and hundreds of other obstacles in ever getting anything off the ground. The fine art that determines exactly how far you’ll go, is knowing when to back down and when to push back. When to make changes/start again and when to dig your heels in.

Which brings me back to Cloughie. As much as I admired his unshakeable self-confidence and refusal to back down, it backfired on him. Perhaps he’ll go on to make his online property marketing business a massive success. But without Lord Sugar’s £250k and backing, I doubt it. If he’d have just listened to Claude, given himself a reality check and tweaked his idea a little bit, he could’ve – no, would’ve – won the thing.

If you think that’s a cop-out or a compromise, bear in mind that Bill Bernbach, the greatest ad man there ever was, used to carry a little card around in his shirt pocket. Written on it, to keep himself grounded in reality, was the reminder – Maybe they’re right.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

2 Responses to Maybe They’re Right

  1. johnpwoods says:

    I’d have kicked off with, ‘Wouldn’t you like a plan to cut out the middle man?’ The idea is ‘a house selling template that will save money’. His problem seemed to be that he thought the platform (online) was part of the idea and he also messed up by saying the competition (estate agents) would be part of the plan too. Clear and concise it was not.

  2. antmelder says:

    Good point John. I felt that Claude was being a bit harsh because (I reckon) an idea like this probably could work. But it was Cloughie’s fault because he didn’t present it clearly. So he’d lost it before he even got going. If he’d said, “OK, fair enough Claude, maybe I need to sit down with you and Lord Sugar, work it out and make some changes to the plan” then (1) His idea would have ended up clearer and stronger and (2) He would’ve won hands-down.

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