OPINION: Cowen on ... PG Tips

I didn't enjoy Chicken Run. I wanted to. I put up with Mel Gibson's

ridiculously out-of-place accent for about 20 minutes, desperately

hoping that something entertaining would happen, but it never turned up.

I was bored to tears.

Wallace and Gromit - now they were great. The most manically wholesome

pieces of entertainment you could imagine, and the peak for Nick Park

and Aardman Animation. The problem came with a longer length


Park's creations had previously relied on short frenetic plots for their

charm - claymation character development is much more dull. The

technique can't entertain unless it's performing the right material.

This is the problem with BMP DDB's much anticipated successor to PG

Tips' septuagenarian chimps. The only idea on display is the one about

hiring Aardman. There's nothing else in there to fill out the characters

- no plotline, no humour and nothing particularly new to say. The whole

enterprise rings disappointingly hollow as a result.

All these accusations could, of course, be levelled at PG's primates.

The key idea was chimps. Full stop. What they did was never exactly high

concept or even particularly witty.

However, the use of apes was genuinely unique and attention-grabbing -

and it remained that way for six decades. The chimps could arguably have

survived through the era of hi-tech effects because no amount of CGI can

ever replicate the basic humour of an ape bowling around in a suit and


I suspect that the decision to axe the hairy ones has less to do with a

tired concept and more to do with the need for flexibility under current

market conditions. It's tight at the top, with PG and Tetley trading

places every time one of them brings out a slightly different tea bag.

Now tea marketing is suddenly going through a shake-up. PG's big rival

is about to ditch its iconic Tea Folk, while Typhoo went for something

much more hip with Tommy Singh last year. PG needs some freedom in its

advertising if it's not to be outflanked.

Then there's coffee - young, trendy and a threat to tea's market


As a whole, the tea brewers could do with updating their image.

Which could explain why Unilever seems bent on modernising the

tea-drinking unit. Some clever so-and-so has worked out that we don't

just drink tea with our families! Sometimes we do it with flatmates!

Hence we have what looks like a Geordie starling and some form of Celtic

owl along with a posh pigeon. Golly.

My problem isn't that this is a bad idea - it's just not a particularly

good or relevant one. Tea's value as a social ritual comes from the fact

that it's always drunk in the same way - no matter who you're with. It

imports warmth to any situation, so trying to distinguish friendly tea

drinking from family tea drinking and brand PG as the former seems a bit


Trying to do it with the cute critters out of Creature Comforts is worse

- for anyone with a long memory, this ad says sod putting the kettle on,

get your central heating sorted out. For anyone younger, the animation

is far too connected to the Yorkshire accents associated with Aardman

features - and consequently to the departing Tetley Tea Folk. Nothing's

been modernised here. Rather this ad vaguely echoes the traditional tea

spots that PG was apparently trying to move on from.

Still, if Typhoo and Tetley make an equally bad job of their next

campaigns, then staying traditional might not be such a bad idea. I

suppose clay pigeons are cheaper than chimps anyway - I just wish this

one had been shot down in research.

Dead cert for a Pencil? This is no high flyer.

File under ... T for Tetley Teaman (in bird form).

What would the chairman's wife say? Can we do claymation chimps next?

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