Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Peter Jones' New Show 'Tycoon'

I tuned in to last night's much hyped new ITV business series 'Tycoon' with much anticipation.

Not only am I an avid fan of the new breed of TV business shows, but also having known Peter Jones 'before he was famous' - when we filmed series 1 of Dragons' Den back in 2003 - I was interested to see how he had developed in his role as 'celebrity entrepreneur'.

But minutes in, as we were flown over the City of London in the opening credits and then had a street level view of his shiny new Bentley arriving outside a disused warehouse-type building, it became clear that we were destined to endure a lowest common denominator formulaic pastiche of The Apprentice meets Dragons' Den.

Jones has selected 6 would-be entrepreneurs to take part in the show, each trying to build their business in a 10 week period working in an open plan office, under the scrutiny and 'guidance' of Jones.

The problem with the show is that it quickly becomes apparent that Jones hasn't a clue about brands or marketing, constantly misguiding the businesses in his charge.

Thus we see the 'Gardening Girlies' being encouraged to re-brand to something more 'attention grabbing' - and then being heaped with praise for coming up with the new identity 'Sod Women'. Personally I can't think of a brand name more likely to alienate what is predominantly a female, middle England target customer.

Similarly, vodka juice girl was given a slating by Jones for her attempts at finding a name for her product - citing 'Death' cigarettes as a great example of an attention grabbing brand (yes, those were the fags launched in 1991 by the company which was in liquidation by 1999). She finally resorted to grabbing passing joggers on the South Bank for their suggestions.

Back to the warehouse office and Jones has summoned everyone to a meeting to discuss their progress. The Gardening Girlies, sorry I mean 'Sod Women', have arrived in navy pinstripe suits wearing ties - only to receive more praise from Jones for showing so much progress under his guidance. No doubt in a future episode they will arrive having undergone a complete sex change, only for Jones to coo 'Congratulations ladyboys, the penny has finally dropped with you that only men can be successful in business'.

Finally, Jones heads down a pier for a showdown with vodka juice girl - plus the inevitable threat of a sacking - when what she really needed most at this point is some friendly guidance from one of London's big branding agencies.

This is where I think the show was so disappointing compared to, say, the brilliant Mary Queen of Shops (BBC2 Thursdays 9pm). In that series, Mary Portas not only points out where the businesses are going wrong, but then really gives brilliant hands-on guidance - by bringing some of the top fashion professionals in to help show how it should be done.

As the show progressed, while Jones' teeth got whiter, his cufflinks got bigger and the Bentley got shinier, Jones personality got thinner and thinner. By the end of the epsiode I was left feeling that this was simply another TV vehicle for his now monstrous sized alpha male ego.

The penny finally dropped when we saw the last frame and realised that the show had been created and produced by Jones' own TV production company Peter Jones TV. Like his Max Clifford co-client Simon Cowell, Jones clearly sees TV production as his latest way to make some much needed money.

A quick peek at the latest Phones International accounts shows why the diversification is needed - £4million profit on £186million sales is a nice business to have, but hardly puts Jones in the 'Tycoon' bracket of a Branson, Dyson or Sugar. Especially when up the road at Red Letter Days (the business I started, which Jones acquired out of administration in 2005 in a flourish of 'I'm-a-Dragon-and-I-know-a-Great-Business-Opportunity-When-I-see-One' publicity) has just filed a loss of £7.1 million.

While the TV route may have worked for Simon Cowell, sadly I don't see the same happening for Peter. While the idea for the show was great, the execution was lousy, and as one of Britain's supposed new breed of business leader, Jones just doesn't have the X-Factor.


Andy said...

Great post!

I didn't catch the show last night but i was at the NEC when he was filming at the startups show..he nearly knocked my friend over as he walked around as if he owned the place...

Hope your enjoying your new blog!

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gino128 said...

I think you put across what many people were thinking very succintly Rachel.

Apparently, tycoon attracted only 2million viewers in week 1 and peaked at 2.3million. From memory, ITV expect a mid-week show to average around DOUBLE what Tycoon brought in.

But, hey, Peter is "worth" £120 million and I haven't even got a job so maybe he HAS got it right!

Jim Symcox said...

Hi Rachel,

I agree with your point about Tycoon being a thinner version of The Aprentice and Dragon's Den.

I've already reviewed Tycoon and Mary Queen of Shops on my own blog and I agree wholeheartedly that Mary wins sky high over Peter's offering.

I also find it hard to believe that you would choose such a strange set of people to run businesses, unless purely for entertainment. Which rather smacks of slaves being trown to the lions.


bruce said...

Having just been slated by Jones on the new show of Dragons Den, I was really pleased that his new show flopped in a nuclear way!

Fair play, just starting out in business I have no experience in the corporate world. However, who else was born in to the world knowing how to compile a P and L account without being taught!!

My smile was even greater by the end of the programme knowing that if I was ever in a room with Peter, I would win him hands down in the enthusiasm, people skills and attractiveness stakes. Add to the fact that he really has as much charisma as a bag of rusty spanners and you can tell why he the way he is.

My main concern (I always try to see the good in everyone, a trait I learned from my Nana)is that he is very under confident and wants to be seen to be the man as opposed to actually being it.

I say this as on 3 different websites he states the age that he started his tennis academy as being

2-around 16
How can you not know what age you are when you started a business? I mean come on, all you have to do is look at the records and then look at how old you were. That surely must be an easy task for this Zeus of the business world?

Now I may be wrong, but this screams to me that he wants to be perceived as being this huge star "look what I did at an early age".

What ever he may be showing on the outside, I am sure he is a great guy in the middle.

Time said...

Having reviewed your business ventures including that rubbish ART website you have no room to talk with failure upon failure. You may be a good Brand Manager or a Marketing Manager but that it it. You are certainly not an Entrepreneur or should not be running a business. Tell me how much you have made. As far as I can tell it is £0 as Red Letter Days, a Fantastic Brand, was totally mismanaged by you as you have no idea about financials and strategy. By the way I thought that this website was supposed to have you reply to postings, I see none???

time said...

Rachel, why have you not responded to my last posting?

Daran said...

Time... Better to be a has-been than a never was! And you are a never was!

Anonymous said...

You're obviously jealous of Peter Jones and wish you had the level of success he has. You've probably been sitting there waiting for him to unsucceed at something. One bad decision out of the hundred great things he's done is really no big deal. Even having said that, I quite enjoyed the show Tycoon. He was much more entertaining than you when you were on Dragon's Den. You always had that miserable sour face on and not an once of sense of humour. So apart from turning green with envy, what have you been up to these days?