PG TIPS: Encounters with Monkey.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had quite a bit of feedback from colleges; ‘Do more posts that go through the decision making process, we like them best’.
It’s flattering that the colleges are using my blog, but weird for me, because if I’ve got the choice of interviewing say…Dave Trott or talking about why I picked Futura over Baskerville or preferred the word kerfuffle more than brouhaha, I’d choose the former every time.
But I’m going to try and post a few more of the latter, showing the micro decisions made along the way.

I first saw the critter back in 1999, he was flogging subscriptions for ITV Digital.
Monkey, or ‘Monkeh’ as he’s known to his friends, disappeared shortly after along with ITV Digital. He made a brief appearance in The Office.
When the liquidators turned up at ITV Digital looking for stuff of any value, they came across Monkey, then came a dispute over who owned him – the liquidators or Mother, the agency that gave birth to him.
An agreement was reached that neither should own him, he should be adopted by Comic Relief and put to work pulling in donations.
Why would an ad agency would want the rights to a now defunct character from an advert?  who’s going to want a character previously associated with a company that went belly up?
Then, and I’m not sure whether by chance or design, the only company in the country with a monkey as a spokesman turns up with a problem ‘They can no longer use real monkeys in their ads’ its cruel.
What are the chances?
So monkey starts peddling tea, PG tips tea.

By the time I got to work with Monkey he’d shed 200lbs, or Al, as he was known.

The initial task was a handful of ads about the variants; Fruit, Gold and Green.
My first concern was how do we bring Monkey to life in static media?
He doesn’t look himself illustrated, and when photographed he often looks… well, like what he is; a stuffed sock puppet.

Exhibit A.
PG tips - Illustration:Bob Venables
Who could breathe life into this sock puppet?
What photographer would even take a puppet seriously?
Who would be sensitive to the character of a puppet?
What kind of photographer would be arsed to worry whether his little woolen mouth looked like it was an ironic smile not a naive smile?
Oh, and also make the images look cool, and graphic?
What kind of nutcase gives a shit about that kind of stuff?
I get mark Mark Denton on the phone.
After seeing the layouts Mark makes a great observation; ‘Make him small in the frame, that’s part of his charm in the tv ads.’
Like all the best observations, it’s bloody obvious once someone says it.
In retrospect Monkey looks more like a gorilla when filling the frame.
With Mark on board we start shooting.

The questions were;
a) Is the Carmen Miranda visual a little too familiar?
b) Is there a more humorous pose for Monkey? As we are not dealing with a temperamental actor we can shoot forever.
c) If we try something else, how do we handle all those packs?
The pose was funnier, admittedly only 11% funnier, but funnier all the same.
We had a last minute headline switch.

PG tips 'Posh' Scribble-01

Here were the questions;

a) Mark’s rough, as usual, was magnificent, full of life, frankly you could run the rough, but are there too many elements?
b) Where will the headline go and will it be light or dark enough to be read/seen?

c) How will it look posh without lots of props?

I managed to cut five words from the headline and made it sound posher by swapping ‘I’ to ‘one’.
PG tips Gold 'Poshest'

PG tips 'Green' rough-01

The big debate on this shot was whether we really needed to shoot it?
It kind of worked didn’t it?
So our questions were;
a) Would a colour that contrasts with green make the green look more noticeable?
b) Showing five means people won’t focus on any, could we show less?
c) Would he look better smaller in frame?
We reshot it.
It’s similar to the mock-up, just better.
PG tips Green Tea 'Green Monkey'

‘Al’, Monkey’s big boned chum has departed and a new campaign is needed.
In a world where Coffee is eating Teas lunch, how can we position PG tips and Monkey?
The planning department proposed positioning PG tips as honest, no nonsense and real alternative to coffee.
Planner/creative hybrid guy Chris Vernon a neat line the summed up the thought ‘Keep it tea’, meaning ‘Keep it real’, (only with ‘tea’ in it).
A lot of funny work had been done, but the sticking point seemed to be what was Monkey’s role?
Should the campaign be based on him hanging out with people who were’t keeping it tea?
Learning about what was or wasn’t ‘keeping it tea’?
Observing others that weren’t keeping it tea?
Etc, etc.
I thought the simplest way was to get Monkey to call out the pretentious, gimmicky and downright silly.
My first thought was to literally do just that; create spoof, pretentious content and have Monkey calling it out.
In tv he could walk on half way through the ad to call it to a halt or in print he could be standing opposite, reacting, generally being appalled.Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.45.47 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.46.01 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.46.16 AMWe shared them with the client.
A couple of questions emerge:
a) ‘The two parts are a bit complicated, could it be simpler?’ – Mark Waites.
It’s a fair point.
b) ‘Monkey is a bit passive, couldn’t he be a bit more involved?’ – Client.
Fair point.
c) ‘Couldn’t we do it without paying for ads for lots of other companies?’ – Mark Waites.
Again, fair point.
So, how do I get the pretentious bit and the response bit within the same half?
In a simple way?
With Monkey being funnier?
Well, Comedians do it.
They stand alone and call out the nonsense in the world.
Take Jerry Seinfeld, he’s always pointing out the silly or pretentious things we all do, like ‘why do Chemists have to be a foot and a half higher than the public?’
Let’s have Monkey pointing out stuff that isn’t keeping it real, like Jerry, only more English.
What can I poke fun at? Oh joy, I’m in Shoreditch, let’s have a look out of the window.
Young people with beards, (mainly men). Sock-less hipsters.PG tips446-01Pretentious phrases.
What else is annoying?
Endlessly being told I simply HAVE to watch The Wire/Breaking Bad/Game Of Thrones/etc, etc.PG tips 'The Wire' rough-01The whole palava around ordering a coffee.PG tips447-01PG tips448-01
Some were starting to work, but there were watch-outs.
1: Avoid being too judgemental.
2: Avoid being too Shoreditch.
3: Avoid being non-funny.
Words generally feel different in type than handwriting, more formal for one thing.
I thought it would be worth seeing how they felt tonally once mocked-up.
So how should they look and feel?
a) We have to use the PG font; Cheltenham.
b) We should use the PG tips brand colors; green and red.
c) We need to make them look simple; it’s an ad.
d) We should avoid them looking too designed; it goes against the idea of ‘keeping it real.’
e) They should feel contemporary; with tea consumption falling every year and PG tips being nearly a hundred years old, it’s important to make the brand feel relevant to today.

Looks a bit rubbish.
And cheap.
Maybe if we minimize the colours by making Monkey black & white?
A tone on the background might make it feel less cheap, less like a mac run out.
Also, ‘keep it tea’ feels like it’s floating, maybe it should link to the logo?

SECOND ROUGH:PG tips 'My name on' roughBetter.
Right, what else isn’t ‘keeping it real’?
The fashion industry.
PG tips 'Airbrushing' roughPG tips 'Black is the' roughPG tips 'Clothes' rough
The tech obsessed.PG tips 'Get Yout Free' roughPG tips 'Instagram' roughThose overly friendly ads.PG tips 'I'm Not' roughLanguage.PG tips 'Real Time' roughPG tips 'Beer 'O'' roughAnd beardy writer Craig Ainsley pops over with a neat dig at Shoreditch.PG tip-01

Fortunately it’s been designed by JKL, so it’s magnificent.
We have to switch our font to their new one; Neutraface.
PG-01Good result, Neutraface is  a better, more contemporary font.
Maybe Monkey should have ‘Keep It Tea’ on his t-shirt?
We would lose an element and link the line to Monkey.PG_PRINT_2015_V423
Looks a bit crap, plus it seems to make the line feel more bombastic, in a bad way.
Maybe we run the endline on from the headline and let the colors separate them?PG_PRINT_2015_V418 2
Better, more contemporary, simpler and slightly cooler.
(To run in January 2015.)Mark Waites chips in a line on his way to the loo.
PG_PRINT_2015_V420Nick Hallberry & Dave Colman nail the inevitable ‘amazeballs’ execution.PG_PRINT_2015_V410And one from planner/creative hybrid guy Chris Vernon.PG_PRINT_2015_V417Placement team Raine & Lisa* pop over with a slightly left field script.
(Now known as ‘Permanent team Raine & Lisa’.)PG tips 'Kim', 1

Not sure  of it as a script, but love the static image of Monkey mimicking Kim Kardashian.
Let’s do it as a poster.
Find the exact Kim reference then mimic it.
PG tips 'Kim', 2
PG tips 'Kim', 3Oops, the brown is a bit weird.
Lose the brown.PG tips 'Kim', 4.
Box is a bit weird.
Lose the box.PG tips 'Kim', 5.
Looks a bit fiddly.
Simplify the type by putting it in a single line along the bottom of the poster.
Make Monkey black & white and fitness the arc of the tea.
Also, let’s put some little splashes in the tea cup, for 7% more humour.PG tips 'Kim', 6
Let’s push the mug onto the edge of Monkey’s bum, it’ll give us another 3% humour uplift.
It feels more comfortable to follow the arc of the tea from left to right, the way people read, also it means we end on the PG tips logo, so let’s switch it around.
And where’s the background tone?
Let’s angle the cup, as if it may fall off at any moment, (4% more humour) and try the tea in black & white too.PG tips 'Kim', 10
Black & White tea looks too weird.PG tips 'Kim', 8.
Maybe, because ‘Keep it tea’ is new we should lead on it, to launch the idea?  The observations could be smaller, secondary?
PG tips 'Airbrushing' (Bold Futura)PG_PRINT_2015_V426PG_PRINT_2015_V434
Good theory, but the jokes get lost.
Back to where we were.
We shoot with Mark again.
(He brings in Fern Beresford for technical support.)
PG tips Shoot 'Sign'PG tips Shoot 'Board 2'
My son Louis gets to hang with Monkey.PG tips Shoot 'Louis & Monkey 3'
I get to hang with ‘Of-Course-You-Can’ Malcolm, who now operates Monkey.


At a bus stop.
Unfortunately I missed the last bit of the process due to leaving Mother.
Mark, Nick, Dave and planner/creative hybrid guy Chris pushed it over the finishing line without me. 
PG tips 'Six Pack' FINALPG tips 'Amazeballs' FINALPG tips 'Airbrushing' 48


13 responses to PG TIPS: Encounters with Monkey.

  1. Theo says:

    I’ve heard colleagues from Watford and other schools discuss “borrowed interest” as the cardinal no-no, but it’s hard to think of many career-advancing adverts that don’t use it. Is Monkeh “borrowed interest”?

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Theo, people aren’t interested in advertising or dried leaves, so you have to find a way interesting them so that they feel closer to your brand of dried leaves other branded dry leaves. Best, Dave

  2. nickgeorge60 says:

    This is great, especially for students, so thanks Dave. It is also an illustration of why George Lois’ The Art of Advertising beats out any One Show or D&AD annual. George talks about his thought processes, and is even big enough to include his failures.

  3. Dan Poole says:

    This is a great insight and one that brings us even closer to that household critter. A joyous read.

  4. Digital Art Director says:

    Brilliant stuff Dave, I’m sharing this around the office.

  5. rodge says:

    Hello, Dave, Just took my Msc Advertising students at Edinburgh Napier through this. What a fantastic, behind the scenes journey into the creation of an ad. Probably the most entertaining way to tell them that the’ve just got to keep plugging away at the idea. Brilliant stuff. Thanks

  6. Andy says:

    Great stuff. Loved that.
    P.S I might have fought to keep Cheltenham.

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