Claire Beale on Advertising: Worried insurers compare meerkat market

 

Aleksandr Orlov has 536,542 fans on Facebook; probably more by the time you read this. At least 24,000 Tweeters are following him on Twitter. He has had more than 50 proposals of marriage and nearly 1,000 people have signed his petition to get the word "seemples" (simple) into the Oxford English Dictionary.

In eight short months, the British public has adopted the dapper Russian meerkat Aleksandr and his beautifully ridiculous "comperthemeerkat" website. Even better: this wave of affection has transformed the fortunes of the price-comparison website comparethemarket.com which is, after all, paying for the whole caboodle.

So it is no surprise that Aleksandr has sent shockwaves through the price comparison website market. There is now a mad scramble among rivals to rethink their marketing strategies. Gocompare.com has just launched a new television advertising campaign to rebuild its profile. Learning from Aleksandr, it too has tried to create a standout frontman for its brand and its new campaign stars the opera-singing "Gio Compario". Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Confused.com has called a review of its advertising and Moneysupermarket.com has decided to ditch its execrable ads starring Peter Jones from Dragon's Den. It too is holding a pitch to find a new creative solution.

All of this is welcome news for television viewers. The price comparison sites spend millions of pounds buying bucket loads of airtime and then filling it with some of the blandest, hammiest ads on the box. Now that Alexsandr has them all held to ransom, panic is setting in. Appealing to our penny-pinching instincts with cheap and nasty advertising is no longer good enough. There might be a recession on but we are not buying advertising tat any more. Alexsandr has shown the price-comparison market can appeal to our purses with élan.

But, fair's fair, before Alexsandr it did seem like this was one product category that it was simply impossible to do good creative work for. Car insurance aggregator websites: hardly the sort of creative brief that gets an agency slavering. All the brands have similar names, similar propositions and market share has largely been determined by how much money each brand spent on advertising.

So how could Comparethemarket break through the clutter? It was the smallest of the big four sites, was one of the last into the market, with a name and a proposition that gave it no real point of difference. VCCP knew it would need to create some advertising magic. The success of Admiral and the Churchill nodding dog proved that insurance market advertising thrived on strong brand icons. But the price-comparison websites seemed to have been so convinced that their revolutionary offerings would dazzle consumers they hadn't bothered to invest in real brand personalities.

Then there was the Google issue. Understanding how consumers search for these aggregator sites on Google was key. Buying a generic search term such as "car insurance" or "compare" is the most expensive way of getting your brand to the top of the Google listings; the cost-per-click on a search term like "market" can be as high as £5. So VCCP knew it had to find a cheaper search term people could use; that's where the leap was made from "market" to "meerkat". Yes, at first it seemed a little bit clumsy and crude, but it's all in the execution. Thanks to the gentle wit of the sharp scripts and a spectacular social media campaign, Alexsandr has quickly become entertaining, loveable and quite believable. Comparethemarket now has better awareness than its rivals, insurance quote volumes are up by 80 per cent and the cost of driving a consumer to the site has fallen by over 70 per cent.

Naturally, Alexsandr's rivals are flapping around trying to find new advertising solutions to counter the meerkat phenomenon but they'll have to come up with something pretty special to displace a mongoose in the silk smoking jacket from British hearts.
 

Best in Show

Volkswagen(DDB)

*DDB and Volkswagen have worked together for 40 years. It is a unique relationship, not just for its longevity but also its consistency. No surprise then that the new ad for the VW Golf is another triumph. The idea is beautifully simple. Lots of cars are said to be "like a Golf" but there is nothing like the real thing.

From a woman hiring a car to a pack of lads examining an engine, it is clear other hatchbacks just don't match up. It's a clear, simple insight lovingly translated into a great TV ad.

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 Media

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Day In a Page

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
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness