"Ooooh, I can't hold it, dad!"
"Coooeee! Coooee, Mr Shifter!!"
"Dad ... D'you know the piano's on my foot?"
"You hum it, son. I'll play it."
Although I didn't know it at the time, these words were to change my life forever. PG Tips' "Mr Shifter" (6), more than any other, was the ad that turned me on to advertising. Ah, the halcyon days of my misspent youth. Ripple dissolve, ripple dissolve ...
Those were the days. Anthropomorphism? We couldn't spell the word. But happy? We were H.A.P.P.Y. and no mistake. How we chuckled as we walked, yes walked, trainerless and un-4x4'd to school.
Tousle-headed tearaways, cloaked in the comforting thermo-nuclear glow of a Reddy-Brek breakfast and buoyed by the knowledge of life's little certainties: that Guinness was good for us. That only Oxo did what only Oxo can. That not being able to eat three did not constitute the onset of a wheat allergy. And, most importantly of all, that chimpanzees wore bowler hats and could speak English. Well, Cockney.
Yes, chimps and, in fact, animals in general tended to speak throughout my childhood. And that can have a lasting effect on a man. Look at poor Michael; he turned to Bubbles. I for my troubles became the rambling dysfunctional herbert you see before you today. And for that I blame both Johnny and Desmond Morris. Welcome, playmates. To Primate View.
Yet our story begins even earlier than the aforementioned Steinway-shifting saga. "Stately home" appeared back when screens were black and white and teen-agers were still hyphenated (1). Viewed through today's eyes, it's a disturbing little piece but at least it answers the central question: why chimps in the first place? Yep, you guessed it. 'Twas a chimps' tea party wot started it. Nuff said.
From then on it was a race through the decades, as Mr Shifter went head to head with Mr Bodgit the decorator (2) and O'Tool the, erm, Irish labourer, in a series of utterly un-PC, manic miniature sitcoms in which the sit increasingly outweighed the com.
The evolution of this advertising species brought us inexorably, via road builders and Channel Tunnel diggers (3), to the "James 'Brooke' Bond" pastiche (4) and by then the game was almost up.
But. And there is a but. And it's a great big shiny protruding hairy one. Despite it all, we love them still. Post-modern, knowingly cool and uber-PC we may now all be, but there was something intrinsically, eccentrically British about the PG chimps that won them a place in our hearts forever.
We forgave them their Carry Ons for they knew not what they did. And I believe it's the very knowingness of the Crazy Frog's marketing that makes people so despise it today. Things don't get much more down-to-earth than "It's the tea you can really taste", do they?
So. What of a comeback? Bung the PG chimps on MTV, I say. Give 'em their own madcap TV show, in which they revamp some unsuspecting tea-slurper's 1995 Mondeo. Call it Chimp My Ride. Could work. Failing that, get the one in the bowler hat to drop his pants, make like a motorcyclist and go bing-ding a lot. We'd love it. Wouldn't we?
Which reminds me. Do you know the Crazy Frog's pixellated genitalia have been on national TV more than 100,000 times? You hum it son, I'll play it.
1. PG TIPS Title: Stately home Agency: Davidson Pearce Year: 1956 2. PG TIPS Title: Decorator Agency: Davidson Pearce Year: 1960s 3. PG TIPS Title: Channel Tunnel Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1990 4. PG TIPS Title: Frozen river Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1980s 5. PG TIPS Title: Moving in Agency: BMP DDB Year: 2002 6. PG Tips Title: Mr Shifter Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1979