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The Apprentice Season 3
Reed Hoffmann / Nbc  /  Reed Hoffmann/ Blue Pexel
Donnie Deutsh and staff listen to Magna's (Michael, Kendra, Stephanie, Alex, Erin, Bren) presentation in "The Apprentice."
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/17/2005 7:01:34 PM ET 2005-02-18T00:01:34
COMMENTARY

"I would never in a million years have expected a Republican district attorney from Tennessee to come up with a homosexual commercial," Kendra said, referring to her "Apprentice 3" teammate Bren.

But that's exactly what Bren pitched: An ad that, as his Magna teammate Michael said, was basically a "vegetable porno with a gay twist."

Bren gave birth to the idea after both teams were charged with creating an advertisement for Dove Cool Moisture body wash, this week's featured product. Ad agency maven Donny Deutsch specifically instructed the teams "to blow me away in terms of, 'Wow, this is different, I have to watch this.' … The guys who have the most creative, most out-of-the-box approach are going to win it," he said.

Thus, both teams went for out-of-the-box humor.

And then both teams lost.

At judgment time, Deutsch didn't hold back: "You both missed big. You both sucked." His verdict sent both devastated teams to face Donald Trump in the boardroom.

Deutsch's rejection of Net Worth's ad made sense. Their overarching concept worked well, as the ad would show Dove Body Wash rejuvenating and refreshing a runner. However, the execution was incomprehensibly illogical. After being handed a bottle of the product — which was body wash, not face wash — the actor rubbed it all over his face. Then he wiped it off with a towel instead of rinsing it off with water, which is what most people do with soap of any kind.

A gay twist
In Magna's ad the body wash didn't have a starring role. Instead, the commercial opened with an attractive female chef helping a hot male assistant stroke a cucumber under flowing water. Then the ad repeatedly showed the woman making advances toward the man. But in Bren's twist, the young male chef rejected the woman, walking away, body wash in hand, with his arm around a male waiter. The ad's tagline said that, like the ad itself, Dove body wash provides "a refreshing twist."

Magna's commercial didn't really focus on the product's use at all, and Deutsch pointed this out. But he was also appalled by the ad's gay content, noting, "I didn't even understand what the product was. And secondly, that whole thing, that gay bit at the end — I don't think that's the right positioning for a mass product like that."

Bren's teammate Michael, who pouted his way through the last task, didn't find the gay part to be appropriate, either. "I don't like the whole ending with the gay guy, the gay part, I don't really like it," he said after Bren pitched the story.

Bren — again, a conservative assistant district attorney general from the South — said, "What are you saying, Michael? Are you saying that gay people don't use this product? Come on, 'Will and Grace' — give me a break."

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Michael didn't agree. "Would Dove appreciate it? I don't think so," he said.

Donald Trump's right-hand man, George Ross, didn't like it, either. He argued that "it's a bad idea. I could say that Magna's going down the wrong path; I don't think they're on a path."

And in the boardroom, where both teams gathered since they both lost, mostly silent and mostly absent Chris again erupted into a red-faced speech and said his team's ad might not have been as dramatic, but "we weren't over the top in the homosexual connotation. I think that's disturbing." (This prompted an amused Trump to ask him, "Are you not a homosexual?" Chris confirmed that, saying, "Sir, I am not a homosexual.")

Even the ad's mastermind backed away from it; in the boardroom, Bren said the ad's content is "very opposite of my moral beliefs, but Magna had not taken any risks up until this point, and we felt this was a huge risk to take, and the payout would be worth it."

Really so different from a real ad?
There are two issues here: The gay twist and the fact that the ad didn't really have anything to do with the product. Sex and "The Apprentice" don't seem to mix, and the show certainly didn't appear to be ready for even low-key gay content. The idea was pitched by a conservative team member, and, as some team members pointed out, the ad would be targeting a profitable market, but that didn't seem to matter. And even though the show is preceded by "Will and Grace," "The Apprentice" has never really ventured into gay territory before (for example, there's never been an openly gay cast member). But despite the focus on the ad's male-on-male action, what really destroyed Magna, Deutsch said, was the ad's lack of focus on the product.

Magna and Net Worth's ads were so bad that both Donald Trump and Carolyn appeared in a horribly-acted, boardroom-set spot that introduced the real Dove advertisement. Yes, they shot an ad to introduce the advertisement for a sponsor whose product was heavily featured throughout the episode. The real Dove ad featured extravagantly clothed women and Miss Piggy morphing into dressed-down versions of themselves, apparently "refreshed" from using the body wash.

Except for a quick cameo, the actual product doesn't really appear until the last few frames, and it's not clear until then how the product relates to this clothes-changing. And, of course, despite being a memorable addition to the ad's cast, Miss Piggy's appearance doesn't really make any logical sense. But that's the point, isn't it? Advertisements don't necessarily have to illustrate a product's features; that's what infomercials are for. Commercials grab our attention and, ideally, offer some insight as to the product's use or benefits.

Advertisements work when they attract attention. With their satirical Super Bowl ad, domain registrar GoDaddy.com may have inflamed those whose corsets are too tight, but the company's ad exponentially increased traffic to their web site. Another Super Bowl ad featured both supermodel Cindy Crawford and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star Carson Kressley checking out an attractive male, and it was the 10th most popular Super Bowl ad.

Both of these ads — and plenty of others — drew attention with sexuality, both gay and straight, and only minimally highlighted their creator's products. And both were successful. Magna's ad may not have been as flawlessly executed, but ultimately, it wasn't really that different from the ads we see on TV every day.

Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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