Hearts and wallets open to the latex lures of Mr Blobby: Will Bennett reports on a marketing exercise of giant proportions

COME TOMORROW, a seven- foot pink and yellow latex rubber figure whose only obvious talent is for falling over may beat Elton John, Take That and Meat Loaf to the top of the pop singles record charts.

If Mr Blobby does make it to the number one spot it will be the greatest triumph in a career that has been meteoric since he first appeared on Noel Edmonds's Saturday television show, Noel's House Party, just over a year ago.

A clever marketing operation, and the British appetite for undemanding humour, has turned Mr Blobby, originally a short-term ruse for preying on celebrities, into a cult figure generating profits worth millions of pounds.

A video of Mr Blobby decorating his home, working out in a gymnasium and going shopping has sold 200,000 copies since it was launched three weeks ago, making it BBC Enterprises' fastest-selling video.

The record, simply called Mr Blobby, is selling half as much again as every other single, according to a spokesman for HMV record shops yesterday. Bookies taking bets on the Christmas number one say they stand to lose thousands of pounds if it stays at the top of the charts.

The HMV spokesman said: 'Every now and then a record comes along with novelty value that appeals to everyone, and this is one of them. At Christmas time everyone's taste disappears and they go for fun records.'

Manufacturers have bought licences to produce bubble baths, Blobbycopters, Blobbymobiles, blow-up Blobbies, boxer shorts, board games, badges, dolls and even wallpaper. One store chain has been selling 16,000 Mr Blobby cakes a week.

The BBC cannot quite believe the scale of its success, while the canny Mr Edmonds, who recently signed a pounds 20m deal selling his television shows to the corporation while retaining the rights to them, is said to be getting half the profits from merchandising.

For those who have managed to avoid Mr Blobby on their screens so far, it should be explained that he was invented last year by Michael Leggo, executive producer of Noel's House Party, which has 17 million viewers.

But Mr Leggo has not shared in the resulting profits because he is a BBC employee.

The pink rubber suit with yellow spots, green rolling eyes and a silly grin was originally devised as a disguise for Mr Edmonds to ambush celebrities such as Wayne Sleep and Will Carling, who were unwise enough to venture on to his show.

But then the character took on a life of its own and Mr Edmonds vacated the costume in favour of Barry Killerby, an actor who until then had been noted for his fine Shakespearian deliveries.

All Mr Blobby ever says is 'Blobby', so Mr Killerby has had to work hard on his intonation.

Soon newspapers were running stories that Mr Blobby was getting more fan mail than Mr Edmonds and had put in for a bigger dressing room. The presenter gave jokey interviews saying that Mr Blobby was letting the whole thing go to his head and was threatening to take over the show.

The public began to respond and Mr Blobby won a poll to pick a new England football manager. Councillors in Morecambe, Lancashire, signed a deal for him to promote the seaside resort after 35,000 people turned out to watch him switch on the town's Christmas lights.

The BBC says that it has struck a quirky vein in the British psyche. Katie Rosser, a licensing executive with BBC Enterprises, said: 'He is the most universal family character you could find and he appeals to everyone from toddlers to great-grandmothers.

'He is totally harmless, good fun and doesn't do anything that would upset anybody except possibly Will Carling. He is a sort of oversized three-year-old.'

Others take a more sceptical view. Martin Lloyd-Elliott, an arts psychologist, said: 'It is simply that people are being subjected to such marketing and hype that some of the mud sticks.

'The character is in quality no different from two dozen others of that kind. This is not reflecting our culture, some mysterious section of the British psyche, but is a transparent con.'

Mr Edmonds said recently: 'Mr Blobby is destined to become one of the great symbols of our time. Generations gone by had Marilyn, Elvis and James Dean, and we have Mr Blobby. It says a lot, doesn't it?'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee