One of the earliest advertisements for tea, at least in the western world, may have been the one which appeared in a London newspaper in 1658, “That excellent and by all pysitians approved China drink called by the Chineans Tcha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee, is sold at the Sultaness Head, a Cophee-house in Sweetings Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.” Well, to paraphrase another famous non-tea commercial, “tea advertising has come a long way, baby.”

The Tipps Family of PG Tips

The Tipps Family of PG Tips (click image to see video of a commercial which ran in 1971)

As noted in my last article on tea advertising icons they tend to fall into two main categories. There are actual humans, often celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Wayne Gretzky, and rapper Eminem. There are also are non-human types, including animated characters like the Tetley Tea Folk and the Tipps Family, a group of real chimps who plugged PG Tips tea for decades. Or you might have both, as in the PG Tips commercials featuring the human Al and his sock puppet companion, Monkey.

On the PG Tips advertising front, consumers were also treated to adverts featuring the T-Birds, a foursome of animated Claymation birds who took over for the Tipps Family about a decade ago. This was an event that was sufficiently newsworthy that it caught the attention of the British press. The T-Birds creators were also responsible for creating the popular animated duo, Wallace and Gromit, who were pressed into service advertising PG Tips for a short time.

But cutesy cartoon animals and other types of creatures were hardly the sole province of PG Tips. In the Seventies Typhoo Tea turned out a number of commercials featuring an animated mascot known as the Typhoo Gnu. The gnu, for those who don’t already know, is another name for a wildebeest. Typhoo also turned out at least one memorable commercial featuring a trio of real-life singing donkeys, though one assumes that the singing part was carried out by some sort of trickery.

Interestingly enough, Tony Cattaneo, an ad man who passed on in 2003, was credited with creating the Typhoo Gnu. He also had a hand in coming up with the aforementioned Tetley Tea Folk, who first saw the light of day in the early Seventies.

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