Mark Mitten '83
Fans of reality television's "The
Apprentice" need little prompting to share their favorite
moment in "the boardroom" or to dish on the candidates vying
to work for one of Donald Trump's businesses for a year. The
show, a creation of Mark Burnett, the man behind the "Survivor"
series, pits contestants against one another in a series of
weekly business-related tasks.
What Kellogg School
grads may not have realized is that fellow alum Mark Mitten
'83, was one of those putting contenders through the paces,
dreaming up the challenges that would make or break their
chances for success.
A producer for
seasons two and three of the show, Mitten's venture into the
entertainment field began in January 2004 as he was leaving
McKinsey & Co. for a sabbatical. While clearing out his desk,
Mitten (pictured with Carolyn Kepcher, executive VP of the
Trump organization) fielded a call from a Hollywood talent
agent friend asking if he knew anyone from McKinsey interested
in joining the team of a nascent NBC show.
The timing appeared
right for Mitten himself to take on this new challenge. After
starting a branding-strategy firm with four colleagues in
the 1990s, he became a partner at McKinsey once the consulting
firm purchased his startup, Envision (McKinsey's first acquisition
in 10 years, Mitten notes proudly). After four years at McKinsey,
he had fulfilled his objectives and wanted a break before
embracing his next opportunity.
"You get into a
certain pattern as you get older," Mitten says. "You are more
risk-averse and less willing to take on something new. This
was the perfect chance to do just that."
Mitten had never
produced a TV show before, but leapt in as one of just two
"Apprentice" producers with a formal business background,
helping to design tasks that cleverly blurred the line between
entertainment and advertising: Contenders created a new Pepsi
bottle, launched a new toothpaste for Crest and helped brand
the New York City Police Department - a few of Mitten's ideas
that featured advertisers and their products as an organic
element of the storytelling.
advertising platforms are not as effective as they once were,"
says Mitten, who has left the show to pursue his own ideas
for TV fare. "Marketers are looking for alternate ways to
communicate beyond the traditional media mix."
be surprised to see more of Mitten's ideas coming to a television
screen near you.