These days it may be frowned upon, but as I was growing up I used to really enjoy the TV adverts for PG Tips tea featuring all those chimpanzees dressed as humans, and it seems I’m not alone as the advertising campaign can claim two records. Â First, it is the longest running ad campaign for any brand, with the first advertisement shown in 1956, and the last in 2002! Â That’s almost fifty years of monkey mayhem! Â Secondly, one of the ads (Mr. Shifter, the piano mover) is the most shown advert on UK TV, having been aired more than 1000 times!
Over the years the chimps have got up to all sorts of things including the Tour de France (avez vous cuppa?), microwave repair, digging holes in the road, and of course dropping pianos down the stairs. Â There was also a series of ads where one of the chimps was a secret agent named Brooke Bond, taking his name from the manufacturer of PG Tips at the time. Â The final set of adverts featured various chimps playing the members of a typical family – Mum, Dad, teenage daughter and young son.
The chimpanzees would also be made to look as if they were talking, which was usually just them flapping their mouths open and shut randomly, although sometimes they would play film backwards and forwards to make the speech fit better. Â This trick was also used to make the chimps motions fit what the advert required.
The ads came in for a bit of a knocking from animal rights protesters, but this is what officially brought the campaign to an end. Â Instead it was deemed the ads were associated with the older generation, and PG Tips wanted to appeal to a younger demographic. Â The chimps were initially replaced by a set of clay animation cartoons made by Aardman Animation, but more recently they’ve gone back to their monkey roots (sort of) with the current ads featured Johnny Vegas and the knitted monkey which Vegas originally featured alongside when advertising terrestrial digital TV.
To finish then, here’s that record breaking advert featuring the chimps moving a piano. It may be dated 1971 but I’m sure it was still being shown in the 1980’s.