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What's the connection between PG Tips, talking chimps, an owl - and Peter Sellers

01:00 Mon 21st Jan 2002 |

A.� The first tea-party advertisement for PG Tips tea was introduced by Peter Sellers in 1956. The ad showed an immaculately dressed 'boy' and 'girl' - the famous chimps - sitting at a Regency table and drinking tea from a silver service in dainty cups. Sellers was paid �100 for the work, and since then dozens of celebrities have provided ad voiceovers, including Bruce Forsyth, Irene Handl, Bob Monkhouse and Stanley Baxter.� The talking chimps have been seen as piano-removal men (Coo-ee Mr Shifter), housewives... �and have even, in one campaign, parodied James Bond.�

Q.� Where did the chimps come from

A.� The early chimp 'actors' were returned to Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire, where keeper Molly Badham provided Dan and Sue, the chimps first featured, to the then Brooke Bond company 45 years ago. The adverts became such a hit that the fees paid to the Twycross chimps kept� the zoo going.
Ms Badham stopped supplying the chimps when she said she became uneasy about the wigs and elaborate clothing they appeared in. In 1993, an Australian trainer admitted that he smuggled Christina - an orang-utan in the series -�from Indonesia to Europe. The most recent ads have been filmed with American 'actors'. The last star chimps were said by PG Tips to be 'resting' in Hollywood.

Q.� Didn't anyone complain it was cruel

A.� The ads, which became Britain's longest-running advertising campaign, have been criticised by animal activists. Campaigners said it was wrong to use the chimps for entertainment. The ads were extremely successful for PG Tips, however, as sales actually fell when the ad was taken off TV in 1968.

Q.� What is happening to the ads now

A.� PG Tips has just announced it intends dropping the campaign in favour of a new ad, designed�to attract younger viewers. The chimps will be replaced by animated birds, who act like single twentysomethings renting a house together. Unilever, the company which owns PG Tips, accepted a campaign proposal from Aardman Animations - the Oscar-winning firm behind Wallace & Gromit, and the Creature Comforts campaign for the Electricity Board.

Four plasticine 'T-Birds' - Tom the Irish owl; Maggie, a London pigeon;� and Pete,�a Geordie starling - will star in the ads, beginning in late January 2002.

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by Katharine MacColl

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