David Prosser: Price comparison sites battle to be heard

 

Outlook Sadly for insurer Admiral, Confused is the word that these days sums up customers' attitudes towards the price comparison market – and not Confused.com. With four major players in the market and a myriad of niche competitors snapping at their heels, maybe now is the time for someone to launch a price comparison site comparison site. In the meantime, the winner in this business is the company that shouts loudest (or spends the most on memorable advertising).

Admiral's Confused.com is doing better after ripping up its previous advertising campaign a year ago and seems to be holding on to its market share at last. But Cara, its new singing cartoon character, has to compete with Gocompare.com's opera singer, a new campaign from market leader Moneysupermarket.com and the all-conquering meerkats from ComparetheMarket.com. No wonder profits are shrinking.

This is an overcrowded market that Admiral, with hindsight, must wish it had exited four years ago when it was offered more than £600m for Confused.com by private equity bidders. Spending more and more money on advertising simply to stand still is not an attractive business model.

Admiral's boss Henry Engelhardt insists he's happy with the returns the business is generating. Sooner or later, however, there has to be consolidation in the sector, especially with consumer spending under such pressure.

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