Wow, what an enthusiastic response! The show is pretty fun. It is very Apprentice-like, with two teams that compete during each show, team leaders, interesting projects, the works.
Last night the teams set up outside a supermarket. They were given the same bottles of un-labeled soy sauce and told to think of a brand and a promotion for the sauce, much like a consumer products company would do for a new product launch. Each team was given 500,000 dong (about $30) and told to create a promotional space with two tables, facing each other across a small plaza in front of the supermarket. They sprang into action. In typical Vietnamese style, in no time they both secured sound systems so they could blast music (ABBA's greatest hits, endlessly repeated, was the choice of the day) and their message. It seems there are speaker rental shops on every block in every city in Vietnam. The Vietnamese love everything at top volume, all the time.
Each team also had the idea to prepare a dish that uses liberal quantities of soy sauce. They quickly secured plates, disposable chopsticks, serving dishes and the accompanying groceries. A few people on each team feverishly decorated their displays with signs, balloons, flowers, etc. One team found a few candelabras that lent a homey yet festive air to their display as dusk settled over a cool Hanoi evening.
Once each team prepared their dish they were ready to assault the shoppers entering and leaving the store. Both teams had audio-enhanced barkers shouting out the joys of their brand of soy sauce. (In actuality, both teams were given the same brand in unmarked bottles.) ABBA blasted. Each team sent out runners to pull people in. Flocks of people descended upon both teams.
One dish was "bun," or light noodles served with some leafy garnish and garlic minced into the soy sauce. It was served cold. The other was stir-fried beef with some kind of tasty Vietnamese vegetable. Charvey tried both and found each delicious. But then, a hungry stomach is easy to please.
At the end of the evening there was a clear winner. Although customers liked both dishes, they recalled the name of one "brand" of soy sauce much more frequently than the other. They also said they were more likely to try that brand. The winning team had come up with a short and catchy name for its sauce and religiously stayed on message throughout the evening. The other team employed some teenage crooners who sang sad love songs and attracted a giggling teenage crowd of the singer's friends. Teenagers milling around a promotional booth for soy sauce aimed at mothers was not good. One member from that team knew a famous actress and convinced her to come. It would have been cool if she had cooked a bit and helped them promote, but she just showed up, chomped a few bites and left. That didn't help them.
At the end of the evening, we judges adjorned to officially decide on the losing team and select two people to cut from that team. It wasn't fun, because all the candidates promoted their hearts out and I didn't want to cut anybody. We finally settled on the team leader and the woman who had pushed the poor promotional ideas. It was tough, but that's show biz. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to work in "You're fired!" in a smooth way. I did speak some Vietnamese on camera when we interviewed four customers to ask their opinions on the soy sauce. It would be cool if that makes it through the editing.
I learned today that we have committed to hire one of the winners. Funny how the woman on the marketing team who is point on this project never told me that before. No worries tho -- I would hire any of those women. Go-getters and great attitudes, all.
The name of the show is "Uoc Mo cua Toi," or "My Dream." I'm sure I can figure out a way to get it on YouTube when it begins airing on January 9.