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Monkey (advertising character)

Monkey (also known as ITV Digital Monkey or PG Tips Monkey, and often pronounced "Monkeh" in imitation of Johnny Vegas' Lancashire accent) is an animated puppet advertising character in the form of a knitted sock monkey. He was first produced by The Jim Henson Company via their UK Creature Shop, puppeteered by Nigel Plaskitt and Susan Beattie and voiced by comedian Ben Miller.

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.

ITV Digital

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.

Legal Dispute

As Monkey was created and owned by advertising agency Mother rather than by ITV Digital itself, it was the subject of a legal dispute as both claimed the rights to the character. This prevented its use for some time, despite many organisations being keen to acquire the rights. The dispute was eventually resolved by both parties agreeing to donate the intellectual property rights for Monkey to Comic Relief. Following the resolution of the dispute, Monkey appeared in a few TV shows, with the BBC using it for 2001's Comic Relief, as well as making a guest appearance on ITV's coverage of the 2002 BRIT Awards. In each case Monkey appeared without Johnny Vegas.

PG Tips

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.

Mini Movie

Monkey also appeared in a short advertising film which was shown in cinemas at the beginning of selected showings of Horton Hears a Who, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Hannah Montana 3D and The Game Plan. The film was released on 21st March 2008. The film is called A Tale of Two Continents and has Monkey portraying various historical figures as he attempts to make the perfect cup of tea in the Kenya tea farms and then safely take it across the world to England for Queen Elizabeth I.


Fictional character biography

As a child, Monkey was frequently bullied at school, due to his left eye being larger than his right, causing his schoolmates to refer to him as "big eye". He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and gained a grade 7 for piano. Monkey made his original screen debut choreographing and starring in the first ever Monkey-based hip-hop workout Laserdisc on GMTV breakfast. He then starred as the host of an experimental Hawaiian-fusion cooking show. Although only twenty-five episodes were ultimately shot, the show did quite well in Turkey.

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.

Personality and habits

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 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.


Monkey wears a number of different T-Shirts with slogans in the adverts and on the toys. Many of these serve no obvious advertising purpose.

  • "ITV Digital"
  • "Sidekick" or "Sidekick?" (a reference to his status relative to Al)
  • "Do not iron"
  • "GB"
  • "Brittany"
  • "Is it me?"
  • "Beef"
  • "Svennis forever!"
  • "Puppet?"
  • "Chimp" (in the style of the PG Tips logo)
  • "Mr Shifter?" (the name of one of the characters in the original chimp adverts)
  • "2'6"
  • "3% Invisible"
  • "Thought for the day" (with a picture of a banana)
  • "I Facebooked Your Mum" (in the style of the facebook logo)
  • "Monkey says relax" (A parody of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood T-shirts)
  • "Big in Norway"


External links

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