Gulder Ultimate Search was a breath of fresh air when it was first aired in 2004 and I was an ardent viewer. It was truly one of my favourite shows. It was almost surreal when, about seven years later, I got to work on the project as part of the PR team.
I experienced first-hand what I had viewed on the screen for years. And it did have its perks – travel to numerous locations, visits to various state government houses and mingling with celebrities whom I had only seen on TV, among others. Camp life was also quite exciting. It was an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. For the several weeks that I stayed on site, there was no commute to work. It was sort of like a vacation, but working while on vacation.
Gulder Ultimate Search also provided a source of hope to the thousands of contestants that tried to make it to almost every edition of the show. I witnessed contestants trying to do the unimaginable just to get on the show, with some trying unsuccessfully for the four years I worked on the programme.
The screening exercises were also avenues for humour. A key criterion to get on the show was the ability to swim. The hilarious performance of these contestants did make for good hilarious TV content. I often wondered why many of the contestants subjected themselves to ridicule during the exercises they had to go through. The lure was the grand prize of millions of naira (N10 million as at the last edition), the latest SUV (always a Ford Explorer, except for Season 10 which was a Mitsubishi Pajero) and bragging rights to being crowned the ‘Ultimate’ Champion (pun intended).
My most challenging experience on the show however came in the 10th season when sacred covenants of the Gulder Ultimate Search, secrecy and suspense, were broken right under my watch. It was my worst PR error. The news about the winner leaked online hours before the final episode, ruining the suspense for viewers. A journalist I had sent the story to, published before the embargoed time. I thought my agency would be fired from the project, and I had thought of resigning just to pre-empt that move. Thankfully, I was forgiven and still worked on the last season of the Gulder Ultimate Search and the Gulder Ultimate Promo which was a property designed to replace Gulder Ultimate Search.
Gulder Ultimate Search would ultimately succumb to the laws of the Product Life Cycle. It went through the growth, maturity and decline stages. The last seasons experienced reduced viewership while interest had waned, considerably. Gulder Ultimate Search never really had closure. There was no formal announcement on the discontinuation of the programme. The chapter was simply closed, until the announcement of its resurrection.
Even though I won’t be an active participant, I can’t wait to watch this year’s edition as it graces the TV screens. It is my ultimate wish that it succeeds this time.
Glad that Gulder Ultimate Search is back!