David Bull is almost unbelievably self-confident. He is also
charming and prone to self-deprecative humour - the anecdote about being
pinned to a wall and threatened by two angry viewers is a case in
For Bull is not just David Bull, nascent PR and event management agency
owner - he is also Dr David from Watchdog Healthcheck. 'I am a presenter
with a medical degree, not a TV doctor,' he says quickly. He is also by
his own admission 'a complete show-off and natural entertainer'.
And herein hang the question marks. IncrediBULL Ideas, the company he
set up in November with Richard Parkinson, formerly consultant at PA
Consulting, looks to provide a full PR service for its clients.
But does Bull always remember that, in PR, it is the clients who need
the publicity? And he is also a client, since the agency does his own
PR. This is a simple question of difference between David Bull the man
and David Bull 'the product', he says.
Okay, but while we're on the subject of blurring boundaries, even the
least cynical would struggle to accept that there is no potential
conflict of interest between his role as medical consumer champion on
BBC TV and his role as co-owner of an agency which numbers the Cystic
Fibrosis Trust (CFT) among its key clients. Bull rejects this, saying:
'I am very up front about what I do.'
For the record, the trust even features in the new series of Watchdog -
although neither Bull nor IncrediBULL was involved. Parkinson counters
these points by saying that Bull is not involved in the day-to-day
running of the PR side. 'CFT was dealing with watchdog directly,' he
'I'm an ideas person,' Bull says. He is also the unabashed figurehead of
a company looking for investors and new accounts.
Parkinson rejects the notion that IncrediBULL is an events company with
a minor celebrity and some PR activity attached. Of the agency's pounds
250,000 projected fee income in its first year, 60 per cent is PR and 40
per cent events, he says. In addition to CFT, there is work for another
charity, Suffolk Cancer Care, as well as the internet design business of
Parkinson brought the Hewlett-Packard account with him from PA, while
design, TV production and a talent agency will be added in due course,
all feeding off each other.
'We can PR the talent and the talent can come along to the events,'
Parkinson says. 'David brings the vision of the company and where it's
going to be, knowing the right people to move it on.'
These people - mates, Bull calls them - include Vanessa Feltz, Charlie
Dimmock, Jools Holland and, of course, Anne Robinson.
There is certainly more to Bull than is immediately apparent. He has two
medical degrees and says he could have become a consultant, but that was
not the plan. 'I always knew I was never going to be a 'normal' doctor,'
he says. The lure of Sky TV, children's BBC and, finally, Watchdog
became more pressing.
Bull was prompted to start his own PR agency because, unsurprisingly, he
was dissatisfied with existing service. 'Friends of mine who are quite
well-known people - very well-known people - said it's a waste of
money,' he confides. He is determined to change all that, setting
'realistic targets' and combining 'honesty with optimism'.
CFT marketing and fundraising director David Stickels is more than
happy: 'David has been great for us. He's in your face, he is what he
Bull has a bulging contact book and he is definitely not afraid to use
it. He has a nice line in well-practised bon mots: 'I did my time
sitting on the sofa talking about haemorrhoids.'
He writes books (on teenage sex). He works out regularly: 'My work is so
intellectually demanding, it's really good to do something physical.'
And he has a five-year plan: 'I want to be a main face of BBC1', i.e. he
will be the presenter of a big primetime show.
Since his personal credo - which could have been lifted from a teenage
problem page - is 'belief creates reality', you wouldn't bet against it.
This is not someone who just fell into TV in the first place - he leapt
in with his own jet pack.
On a children's website, Bull recently admitted to being bullied when
younger. He has seen one or two of his tormentors since his relentless
ascent to TV Heaven pushed him towards the light entertainment
firmament. 'Even people who hated me pretend to be my best friend now,'
he says thoughtfully.
1993: BSc, St Mary's Medical School, London Uni
1996: Presenter, Newsround
1999: Reporter, Watchdog
2001: Founder, IncrediBULL Ideas