Adventures on The Apprentice: PepsiCo brings Andy Litinsky, Harvard University and ex-Apprentice 2004, to HBS

PepsiCo has had a long history of surprising and delighting consumers with its celebrity-based advertising, which frequently gives the audience a heartwarming yet tongue-in-cheek insight into their favorite entertainers. PepsiCo kept up with this tradition even during its company presentation for RCs on Dec 2nd when much to the delight of the assembled crowd, Andy Litinsky, the latest Harvard celebrity on The Apprentice, made a surprise appearance towards the end.

Andy Litinsky recently graduated in Political Science from Harvard University and at 23 years, is the youngest participant to date to compete on The Apprentice. He was fired by Donald Trump a few days ago, after failing to impress PepsiCo in his assigned task of creating a limited-edition soft drink bottle for Pepsi Edge. Andy’s team created a marketing campaign based on a geographic theme, which fell flat when they presented it to an auditorium filled with marketing professionals from Pepsi. “Geography,” said one marketer, “is not cool.” Fortunately for Andy, although his bottle wasn’t cool enough for PepsiCo, he was. After being fired from the Apprentice, he has recently been hired by PepsiCo and has signed a promotional deal with them.

During the PepsiCo RC presentation, Andy recounted his story from “fired” to “hired” and then stayed on after the presentation to talk with interested RCs. The Harbus took this opportunity to chat with Andy about his adventures on The Apprentice and to get some tips for RCs and ECs who might be thinking of taking a shot at that corner office in Trump Tower as their next career move!

Harbus: How did you decide to try out for the Apprentice ?

Andy Litinsky: I saw the first show and thought it was absolutely great. I was a huge fan and decided I would try to get on to the second one.

Harbus: How did you manage to get selected ?

AL: I had to send in a tape explaining why I should be selected. I realized that Mark Burnett was probably not going to be the one looking at the thousands of tapes that pour in. He’s a mogul and has better things to do with his time. So I thought that it’s probably going to be some 22 year old kid like me sitting in a room surrounded by these thousands of tapes. It’s this kid who’s going to select maybe a few dozen tapes and pass them upwards. I realized I needed to grab this kid’s attention and the only way I could do it was to get a celebrity on my tape.

So I looked around for a free celebrity and found Jesse Ventura, who as you know used to be a professional wrestler and later the Governor of Minnesota. At that time he was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. I knew he left home at 6 am every morning (without being a stalker or anything!) and I met him one day as he was leaving, and explained the situation to him. He was very co-operative and we filmed a short segment talking about the show and business in general.
The remaining 30 seconds of the tape were filled with me yelling why they should select me.

Harbus: So your tape was selected. What happened next?

AL: Next, they flew 50 of us whose tapes had been selected to Los Angeles and basically, for the next ten days, they tried to break us down. We were kept inside and tested constantly – interviews, blood tests, IQ tests, psychological tests (the results of which they haven’t told me yet!). We were allowed outside for exercise for an hour every day – something we called being “let out into the yard”! After those ten days, those of us who were finally selected to be on the show, including me, were told to get to New York in five days or lose the chance to be on the show.

Harbus: You were in the middle of your term at Harvard University at the time. What did you do?

AL: The University advised me against dropping out of college and appearing on the show but I decided that I needed to do this. So I dropped out of college and classes and went to New York. I must say the University was quite reasonable. They sent me my exams in New York and I took them sitting in Trump Tower, with Pamela, six foot and blonde, as my proctor! (Editors’ Note: Pamela was also on the Apprentice and the leader of the team Andy was on.) She’s actually from Harvard Business School. But it was funny because Pamela and I were always fighting on the show and here she was, standing there telling me “you have three hours in which to complete your exam…do not put your pencil down in this time…” I was giving her looks like….. (Editor’s note: due to the limitations of the written medium, the Harbus is unable to reproduce the look on Andy’s face at this time. Suffice it to say, it was not the look of man at peace with where fate had placed him.) Mark Burnett was amazed. He came into the room while I was taking my exams and said he’d never seen anything like it in his life!

Harbus: How was your first day of filming?

AL: I was very nervous. Nervous of being on the air. Nervous of what my parents would see and think.

Harbus: Is there a lot of editing?

AL: They film for three days and condense it down to one hour for the show or rather 44 minutes.

Harbus: What was the most interesting thing that happened to you?

AL: You mean the most interesting thing that I can talk about without violating my contracts! (Thinks for a minute)… Well, we all had to share one bathroom. There was a guy’s side and a girl’s side with two showers on each side. But the doors were see-through. We eventually put towels over the doors because it was just too weird otherwise.

Harbus: Why do you think you got fired?

AL: I think I kept too quiet. Donald Trump doesn’t like quiet guys.

Harbus: What’s next for you?

AL: Right now I have signed this promotional deal with Pepsi and I am considering various options for the future.

Harbus: Thank you for talking with us and good luck in your endeavors.

December 6, 2004
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