Snow's show saved by the ad agencies

A show about dot.com millionaires seemed like a good idea
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The Independent Online

The "elevator pitch" comes along just once in any dot.com entrepreneur's lifetime. Once is enough. As the lift door closes on you and the venture capitalist you've got until the 49th floor to clinch the deal before he disappears into his office to never return a single one of your calls ever again.

The "elevator pitch" comes along just once in any dot.com entrepreneur's lifetime. Once is enough. As the lift door closes on you and the venture capitalist you've got until the 49th floor to clinch the deal before he disappears into his office to never return a single one of your calls ever again.

Channel 4 ran its equivalent last week in the form of the E.Millionaire show where a shortlist of 15 candidates - taken from an original uptake of more than 7000 - got precisely 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts and a live studio audience. The prize? £1m worth of backing for the outright winner and a further £1m to be shared out as the panel saw fit.

As the nation tuned in for the first time it's interesting to wonder how many did so in the hope of seeing someone fall flat on their face. These were ordinary people, the majority of whom had little or no business or marketing experience - a policeman from Liverpool, a charity worker form Leeds, a student from London and the founder of a drainage business from Gloucester all made the starting line-up.

"I considered it to be a very dangerous enterprise," says Jon Snow, the show's host. "To take ordinary punters off the street, no matter how much dressing up we did, I thought it was improbable they would be able to rise to the challenge. That said, I am alarmed at how well they did." Snow's brief was to play the part of friend and ally to the contestants while also lending what was basically a spoof game show, some degree of gravitas.

Now the waiting is over after the panel awarded two contestants £1m each. Colin Robinson with Schoolsforschools.com, a site that will provide an online market uniting schools and suppliers and Joe Rajko with yourable.com, a portal for the disabled and those around them combining travel, training and shopping facilities.

With five weeks between the initial meeting with the ad agency and stepping on to the stage to present there was a lot to be done. "They came to us with the notion of an idea," says Tim Mellors, executive creative director at Grey "and we worked to make it marketable and move it into an area where there was less competition. We had to strengthen their proposition and so it would appeal to the mass market.

Snow agrees: "I think some contestants were let down less by the advertising and more by the strength of their ideas. It was a difficult task. We were telling people who are normally understated that they must really sell the idea. The result was that lots of them went overboard. The problem was, do you tutor people so much that they become like the weather people or do you keep it reasonably raw? I'd go for the latter every time."

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