Monkey has appeared in advertising campaigns in the United Kingdom for both the television company ITV Digital (now defunct) and the tea brand PG Tips, as well as being occasionally featured in TV programmes. Monkey is notable as one of a small number of advertising characters to eclipse the popularity of the product they advertise and also to be reused to advertise a completely different product.
A series of high profile adverts for ITV Digital featured the laid-back, droll and composed Monkey (in a variety of t-shirts) playing the straight man to the comedian Johnny Vegas's slob character "Al". Monkey was one of the few positive public relations successes of ITV Digital. Purchasers of ITV Digital were sent a free soft toy Monkey with their subscription.
For a period during the advertising campaign and after ITV Digital’s bankruptcy, the original promotional Monkey toys were in high demand and short supply. One sold for £150 at the bankruptcy auction and they were selling for several hundred pounds on eBay, where you could also find replica Monkey knitting patterns delivered by email selling for several pounds. Later the Gadget Shop purchased the remaining promotional toys from ITV Digital's liquidators and sold them through their retail stores. These saw a boost in popularity after an appearance in the second series of award-winning British sitcom The Office.
In January 2007, Monkey and Vegas reprised their double act in a new series of advertisements for PG Tips tea. The adverts make reference to PG Tips' popular series of adverts featuring live chimps which ran between 1956 and 2002 as well as to ITV Digital going "belly up".
The first advertisement was named "The Return" and currently 3 further adverts have been shown. PG have just launched a website selling the newly branded "PG Monkey" merchandise with profits being donated to Comic Relief, who still own the intellectual property rights. Also, from February 12th 2007, PG Tips are giving away free mini-Monkeys with every special packet of 160 bag PG Tips.
In 2001, Monkey was teamed up with Al in order to advertise ITV Digital. Monkey temporarily abandoned Al after being humiliated at ITV Digital's bankruptcy. He auditioned for the role of the titular character in Peter Jackson's King Kong, though he lost the part to Andy Serkis. After spending time being tied to a lorry bumper, he returned to Al and the two began working in advertising PG Tips.
Monkey is sometimes portrayed as being quite cowardly; examples include his desertion of Al after the fall of ITV Digital, and his refusal to take responsibility for dropping a ceramic bowl dating back to 3000 BC, despite being filmed doing so. He is also prone to miserliness, having admitted that he re-uses discarded plasters he finds in swimming pools. Although his occupation is that of actor/presenter/commedian, he admits he would do anything anyone is willing to give money for. Monkey hoards both his and Al's wages, deliberately neglecting to inform the naive Al of the fact that they are in fact paid for their work, stating "I don't bother Al with details" and that his money is "safely invested in a portfolio of bananas". Despite his turbulent relationship with Al, the two share the same bed. Monkey is shown to very passionate about tea, his favourite serving method being "three stirs clockwise, two stirs back, one and three quarters sugars". He vehemently insists that tea bags should precede milk when brewing. His exact species is never clarified; Monkey himself denies being a chimpanzee, and his response to Al's idea that he may be "half monkey-half chimp" is limited to "speak for yourself". Though he claims to be a "ladies monkey", he is caught by Al surfing http://www.monkeyladies.com giving exaggerated descriptions of his physical appearance. It is implied that Monkey may be a transvestite; he is shown wearing a woman's nightcap, a sheath dress and a ballet tutu.