Chinese New Year is upon us once again, and this time it is the year of the monkey, the 9th animal in Chinese zodiac. Monkeys are characterised as 'witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality.'
Cuddly ambassadors such as puppies, meerkats and even monkeys can add value to your brand, but this is a cautionary tale of a monkey mascot who outlived one brand and moved on to another, but not before a lawsuit ensued.
Monkey or, as Johnny Vegas would say, ‘Munkeh’, achieved early stardom when he was part of a dynamic duo promoting ITV Digital. The knitted, cheeky sidekick was created by the ad agency Mother.
When ITV digital went under, Johnny and Monkey went their separate ways. However, the demand for Monkey went through the roof and some of the cuddly toys sold for hundreds of pounds on eBay. A legal dispute over who owned the intellectual property rights of Monkey was only settled when Mother and ITV Digital agreed to give the rights to the charity Comic Relief.
Since 2006, Monkey has re-emerged as a key component of the tea brand PG Tips, and in 2007, he and Johnny Vegas re-united for a £18million marketing campaign appearing in PG Tips' ads. Mini monkeys were also given away with the promotional packs of the tea. Last year PG Tips went through a brand refresh by Jones Knowles Ritchie and Monkey (sans Vegas) still remains, albeit with a modern and clean look.
So, the story does have a happy ending, but it provides us with a modern-day example of how important it is to discuss and agree intellectual property rights when moving forward with branding projects.