A new handle on the British cuppa

Roger Trapp meets the man promoting PG's pyramid teabags
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London does not normally have much in common with Egypt but this week visitors to the city could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into the Valley of the Kings. More than 40 pyramids between eight and 40 feet high, each housing at least one performance artist, will be dotted around some of the capital's best-known locations for a day that will culminate in a giant pyramid floating under Tower Bridge and a similarly shaped firework display on the south bank of the Thames.

Though you will not see the name written on any of the structures, the stunt is linked to PG Tips' new pyramid teabags, apparently the latest advance on the round bags.

It is the latest example of mainstream business trying to make an impact on media-saturated consumers by adopting the approach of the streets. The man behind Tuesday's "move, movement, moving" event is Ben Jones, who previously worked for Coca-Cola during the Euro '96 football competition and who also promoted Sony Play Station's Bandicoot game.

As Mr Jones admits, some of the escapades he and his colleagues dream up test the boundaries of legality. In his portfolio are street signs which show all roads leading to Monaco (a rock group, rather than the home of the rich and glamorous), banners for draping across motorway bridges, and fake crime scenes. His more spectacular stunts, like the projection of gigantic promotional images on to Buckingham Palace or St Paul's Cathedral, are treated leniently by the police because, he claims, though technically illegal they do no actual harm.

The trick, he says, is to do everyday things with a twist, so that they raise a smile. "People ask us to do malicious things. But there are things which we won't do," he says. Equally, though, there are some ideas of his own that even his more receptive would-be clients find too much. A lot of companies love the idea of the unusual approach but are not prepared to take the risk of doing something that is not obvious advertising, he explains.

PG Tips, whose previous marketing efforts were largely based on a series of advertisements featuring chimpanzees, is unusual in allowing a free rein rather than asking why it is paying for a lot of pyramids which do not even bear its name.

For Mr Jones, another problem is that because his approach is an extension of the flyposting campaigns long used by the music industry, companies "see it as a way of doing things on the cheap". But it is not always so, and that can mean too much risk for some organisations.

As might be expected of a man who has attempted to cash in on the popularity of programmes like The X-Files and to organise the creation of corn circles, a certain anarchic turn of mind is involved. Mr Jones began his career running dance clubs and then moved into advertising copywriting. Boredom with the medium led to him joining up with Trinity House and Labyrinth, organisations heavily involved in national flyposting operations. Rather than obviously pushing a brand his objective is to get a company talked about.

He puts much faith in lateral thinking and sets out to have a subliminal rather than direct effect on consumers. Consequently, he has tried to build interest in a new soft drink by leaving empty bottles on the back seats of buses and in the bins at rock festivals because, he says, people notice rubbish.

Carrying on with this line, he claims to have considered a way of using puddles and paving stones as an advertising medium, since people look at puddles.

The main target is the so-called youth market. But Mr Jones points out that this has expanded over recent years, at least partly due to the arrival of "adultescents" (people past the usual cut-off point of 30 with a youthful outlook).

He also believes the approach has a peculiarly British appeal because of the humour it entails. Though some might feel that tea is not an obviously "wacky" product to be advertised in this way, Mr Jones thinks that the "quintessentially English" PG Tips will have its profile raised significantly through being linked with the image of "crazy English people doing funny things under pyramids".

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