But there is more to ‘the doctor’ than his television work, which includes stints on Newsround, Watchdog, Most Haunted Live and Channel Five current affairs show The Wright Stuff.
Bull is speaking to PRWeek with his ‘entrepreneur’ hat on, as chairman of IncrediBull Ideas, the communications agency he set up with business partner Richard Parkinson in 2000, and which counts Hewlett Packard, The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and BT among its clients.
While CEO Parkinson has a traditional PR background, having worked as a consultant for agencies including Citigate Technology and PA Consulting, Bull – the company’s outward face – took a very different route into the industry. He graduated from St Mary’s Hospital Medical School with a first class degree in 1993, then worked for three years as an NHS doctor.
The 38-year-old has loved performing since he was a child and describes how, as a doctor, he used to tease ill, elderly ladies by telling them, ‘Hello, my name’s David. I’m your doctor, and I hear you’ve been causing us some trouble’. He says now: ‘I wouldn’t say I was a maverick, but I used to feel strongly that people are very frightened when they’re in hospital, so I tried to lighten it for them.’
But Bull was also desperate to get into television. He resolved to become a TV doctor and managed to break his way in through modelling (‘hated it, hideous catalogue poses’) and writing letters to TV shows. Eventually, Newsround agreed to take him on as a ‘young funky doctor’ offering bespoke health advice for children.
He employed a personal PRO to raise his profile, and was often targeted by PR people as a TV presenter. He and Parker thought they could do better and set up their company, which also offers event management, television production and design.
‘PR seemed to be populated by blonde women who totter around, do nothing, and then at the end of the month they give you an A4 sheet of paper telling you what they tried to do,’ he says, incredulous. ‘I want to know what you did, not what you tried to do!’
Conservative MP Charles Hendry, a former director at IncrediBull Ideas, says Bull’s grand passion is education. He adds: ‘He is very hands on with IncrediBull, very good at motivating people and he is a perfectionist. He is a good delegator with a strong team around him.’
Delegation could soon be even more important, given that Bull is currently campaigning as the Conservative Party’s preferred candidate for Brighton Pavilion. He is a ‘Cameroon’ who talks passionately about politics, particularly where the health service is concerned.
‘I was one of the first people to report on dirty hospitals, and I was absolutely appalled by what I saw – blood on the floor, swabs, toilets that hadn’t been cleaned. It’s a disgrace,’ he declares.
Bull seems something of a crusader in everything he does, including running IncrediBull. He encourages employees to drink water by equipping them with pint glasses and has banned eating at desks. He talks about his 40-strong staff as if they were extended family, saying: ‘I care. I am concerned for them and about them. I don’t like it when they’re upset.’
Whatever growth the £2m fee income company achieves, Bull is determined that the atmosphere in the office has to be fun. ‘It is a fun office,’ he enthuses. ‘It’s bonkers, actually.
Yesterday they were all singing in there. Brilliant!’
Bull says at times his fame can be detrimental because sometimes people see him and think ‘blond, stupid, television presenter’. During the televised Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s annual Breathing Life awards, which Bull co-hosted last week with Claire Sweeney, he had to endure quite a few gags from other celebs about his glowing tan.
Another issue is the company’s name, which can seem odd at first. As ever, Bull can only see the positive side: ‘Everything we do here is incredible. We don’t do average.’
He sums himself up by saying: ‘I think there are doers and people who don’t do. I’m a doer; I want to make a difference.’ That may sound like a line from a daytime TV script, but it is hard to disagree with him.
CV - David Bull
Co-founder and chairman, IncrediBull Ideas