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Present the Unexpected but Stay on Purpose: Lessons From The Apprentice

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Did you happen to see the last episode of The Apprentice? Two teams of celebrity contestants were asked to create a campaign to help launch a new product, Dial Yogurt Body Wash. The task was to come up with a four-page advertorial for Redbook Magazine.

Both teams sat down with execs from Dial and Redbook to discuss the product and the target audience (including Redbook's readership). They were then given access to exceptional photographers and set designers.

Each team took a different approach. Team one featured a member of the team, model Carol Alt, who had already been on the cover of Redbook five times. Its ads showed beautiful photos of Carol using the product in very staged settings—alone, shot one; with a baby, shot two, etc. It ended with what was termed an "edgy" photo of Carol in bed with a man looking as if he's about to bite her (not sexy or appealing, in my subjective view!).

Other than the final page, the ad copy and photos were all safe, predictable, and typical. Just like other ads you'd expect in Redbook.

Team two decided to feature a team member, as well: country star Trace Adkins. A heated dispute among associates focused on which final photos to use: a shirtless, provocative photo of Trace pictured with two other shirtless men, or a photo of Trace playing guitar next to a woman taking a bath (seemingly using Yogurt Body Wash).

The first team (with the exception of the final bedroom shot) was given glowing reviews by the judges, including the Donald, Ivanka, and George. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Am I the only one who thinks all this screamed of mediocrity?

Here's what they seemed to miss:

What Is Different About Dial Yogurt Body Wash?

Online, Dial states that yogurt-enriched beauty products are popular in Europe. That, along with some copy points about health from the inside out, would answer the questions "Why yogurt?" and " Why buy?"

What's the Unique Story Here? and How Does it Relate to Me?

The opportunities to create a memorable product brand through unique stories are limitless.

For example, this spread could have taken on a Greek storyline, with dreamy photos and copy such as "Take the Hydration of the Mediterranean Sea Home with you Tonight." (Team one did use the hydrating benefits in its copy. But this example shows how to make those benefits take on a life of their own).

Is There a Way to Engage the Readers?

Practice the "what-ifs"!

What if the last page of the above campaign had a new Web site,, to link to, specifically designed to encourage readers to submit their own Mediterranean dream blogs and experiences, photos, and storylines related to Dial Yogurt Body Wash.

Make sense? Maybe or maybe not. But you see where I'm going here.

* * *

Don't do what the celebrity teams did on this assignment—being "edgy" just for the sake of edginess. But do think beyond the commonplace. Do present the unexpected to make your brand stand out. But keep the end result in mind: "What are we trying to accomplish?"

And always, always stay on purpose.

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Kathy Parsanko is a storytelling marketing consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio. She can be reached at

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  • by Troy Scheer Tue Mar 4, 2008 via web

    Kathy is so completely on target with her comments. My wife and I were watching the show thinking almost the exact same thing. They were using celebrity just because that's who they are. While the team with Alt was getting there, all in all it was just another damn ad. Nothing there to engage the customer. Why not use the static print medium to drive customers to further engagement? We have the technology. We have the capability. OK, I'm having some fun with that, but I think Kathy is right on point. Kudos, Kathy.

  • by Rob Collins Tue Mar 4, 2008 via web

    Well, it goes to show that marketing is easy to critique, but much harder to develop on a truly sound creative strategy. These are celebrities, not ad agency creative directors. And, it shows. Agree with all of your points, Kathy!!!!!!

  • by Kathy Tue Mar 4, 2008 via web

    Brilliant! And the "biting" comment is spot on. This was an Interesting read and an insightful analysis. Kathy, please bring us more lessons from the Apprentice, a primetime example of storytelling in marketing.

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