Compare the Meerkat
|Release date(s)||5 January 2009–present|
Compare the Meerkat is an advertising campaign on British and Australian commercial television for comparethemarket.com, a price comparison website, part of BGL Group. The adverts feature Aleksandr Orlov, a CGI fictional anthropomorphic Russian meerkat and his family and friends. Orlov is portrayed as being of aristocratic stock and the founder of comparethemeerkat.com: the campaign centres on his frustration over the confusion between his website and comparethemarket.com, playing on the similarity between the words market and meerkat. Orlov's catchphrase is "Simples". Aleksandr Orlov was an alias of Lev Lazarevich Nikolsky, the acting NKVD chief in Madrid in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War.
The campaign, launched on 5 January 2009, was created by advertising agency, VCCP and production company Passion Pictures. The adverts proved popular and became a commercial success for comparethemarket.com, which became the fourth most visited insurance website in the UK as a result. A book featuring Orlov was published in 2010, and other merchandise has been created in tandem with the ongoing campaign.
The campaign, designed by ad-agency VCCP, was launched on 5 January 2009, involving a TV spot, companion website and social media links. The advert featured Aleksandr Orlov, a CGI animated fictional anthropomorphic Russian meerkat, who complains at the confusion between his site, comparethemeerkat.com, and comparethemarket.com. The character explains that he has launched a TV advertising campaign to make visitors aware of the difference. The companion website, comparethemeerkat.com, was created alongside the TV advert and in 2010 was receiving more than 2 million hits per month.
The TV spots, and the characters, were directed by Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures. Walsh has directed all of the meerkat television and cinema commercials to date, and has won several awards for the work. In the adverts, Orlov is voiced by Simon Greenall.
On 3 April 2015, comparethemarket.com launched Meerkat Movies, offering customers two-for-one cinema tickets. They partnered with films such as Terminator Genisys and Ant-Man. The advertisements featured the movie trailer, sometimes an interview between Orlov and the cast, and a comment that the movie tickets are two-for-one with Meerkat Movies.
On 3 July 2018, the newly renamed comparethemarket (formerly comparethemarket.com) revealed Meerkat Meals which offers customers two-for-one meals at restaurants around the UK. Restaurants can sign up via Tastecard. The service launched on 16 July 2018 and is granted for free to customers which have purchased a qualifying product less than one year ago and new customers.
The adverts are fronted by Aleksandr Orlov, a meerkat. According to an interview with the character's designer and director, Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures, Orlov became a billionaire in the 1970s. He is described as living in Moscow, while owning a large mansion in South London, and spends his time on vanity projects such as his website, numerous self-portraits, petitions and film production.
The campaign has also featured secondary characters from amongst Orlov's friends, family and employees. Most notably Sergei, Orlov's IT technician, tea-maker and sidekick, who has also featured in his own adverts. Before working for Aleksandr, he used to be head of the principal design group for the Soviet space programme during the 1980s. He designed the Meer(kat) Space Station, and now works with Orlov and 'Compare the Meerkat'. Sergei is first seen in the ad "Sergei", and later guests in "Jacuzzi", "Art Class" and all three of the 'Orlov Family Trilogy' advertisements. Sergei had been frequently mentioned on Orlov's Twitter and Facebook accounts, one time was prior to being included in an advert, and Aleksandr even started a petition to add the word 'Simples' to the dictionary because Sergei didn't approve of the word in a game of Scrabble. Sergei has also starred in his own adverts without Orlov.
The 2011 campaign focused on a fictional Russian village named Meerkovo. The adverts featured new characters complaining about the danger caused to the town by confusion over Comparethemeerkat.com and Comparethemarket.com. The new characters were Maiya, Yakov, Vassily and Bogdan. A companion website was set up for the campaign containing a map of the town.
Oleg is a baby meerkat who first appeared in an advert broadcast on 25 December 2013, where Sergei and Aleksandr find him on their doorstep and take him in. On 25 December 2014, whilst on a trip to Africa with Aleksandr and Sergei, Oleg decides to stay there after befriending the meerkats there.
Ayana is another young meerkat, appearing on a Frozen themed advert in late 2016, whom Oleg appears to have made friends with in Africa. The advert also sees Oleg himself reappear after almost two years. Ayana speaks in an English accent.
The April 2015 campaign sees the launch of Meerkat Movies. After suffering from empty nest syndrome, Aleksandr and Sergei travel to Hollywood for a holiday, and whilst on a set tour Aleksandr realises that the best way to reward customers is with cinema tickets. In October 2015, an advert was shown where Sergei goes on a date to a cinema with Nicole Kidman.
Since the launch of Meerkat Movies, only Aleksandr and Sergei regularly appear in the main television advertisements, though the Meerkovo characters continue to feature in the Coronation Street sponsorship bumpers.
Following the campaign, comparethemarket.com was ranked as the 4th most visited insurance website in the UK, up from 16th in January 2008 and the site's overall sales doubled. By 2010 the site had increased its market share by 76%, where competitors' share had fallen by up to 30% over the same period. As of August 2009[update], Aleksandr had more than 700,000 Facebook fans and 22,000 followers on Twitter, while on photo-sharing site Flickr there is a popular gallery of Aleksandr's family. According to entrepreneur David Soskin, the wordplay of "meerkat" vs. "market" overcomes the high cost of the latter keyword in sponsored search engine listings.
The character remains extremely popular and a record company has expressed an interest in releasing a single featuring Aleksandr.
On 11 August 2009, an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper accused the advert series of racism for mocking Eastern European accents. However, the Advertising Standards Authority, following a complaint by the author of the article, stated that it had not received any similar complaints, and ultimately decided to take no action.
Orlov's "autobiography" was released on 28 October 2010, entitled A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov. The book generated more pre-orders than that of other books released at the same time including Tony Blair's memoirs and more than double the pre-orders of Cheryl Cole's, David Jason's, Russell Brand's, Jon Snow's, Melanie Chisholm's and Dannii Minogue's autobiographies. The book was published by Ebury Publishing and the autobiography reached No. 2 on the Amazon UK website on its first week of sale in October 2010.
The Australian website hosts downloads such as wallpapers, ringtones, text alerts, voicemail messages and some commercial videos. There is also an iPhone application containing background information, a database of English phrases in "meerkat" pronunciation (created from audio clips from the TV adverts), a mongoose "detector", and some videos. The British site previously had these features, however it no longer has them and the app is no longer available, however there is a 'Meerkat Movies' app to redeem your voucher code.
So popular are these toys, that the marketing campaign involving them has doubled the company owner's personal fortune.
In December 2013, a baby meerkat called Oleg was introduced and subsequently released a toy. In December 2014 Oleg was removed from adverts, but despite this the toy is currently still available.
- Monkey, another popular anthropomorphic animal used in British advertising on products such as PG Tips and ITV Digital since 2001.
- GEICO gecko, Cockney-accented character in a similar campaign for GEICO insurance in the United States since 1999.
- Soskin (2010), pp. 172–173
- Hickman, Martin (29 October 2010). "The 'Simples!' idea that became a £10m empire". The Independent. London.
- "How Passion created Aleks the billionaire meerkat". Digitalartsonline.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 June 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
- "Compare the Meerkat (Australia)".
- Tyzack, Anna (22 January 2010). "Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Meerkat answers some simples questions". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- The word "simples" is valid in English language Scrabble because it is plural of "simple" used as a noun to mean a type of herbal medicine: see wikt:simple#Noun.
- "VCCP Website 2009". Vccp.com. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
- "Marketing Magazine Website 2009". Haymarket Media PLC. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Leach, Ben (13 August 2009). "Meerkat star Compare the Market animal becomes Facebook and Twitter hit". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Beanland, Chris (13 August 2009). "How make TVs funniest ad Its seemples". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- http://goodnewsshared.com/meerkats-aleksandr-sergei-join-neighbourhood-watch/ Meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei Join Neighbourhood Watch
- Jones, Peter (22 August 2009). "Meerkat forces? Not good enough - Peter Jones" – via www.theguardian.com.
- Orlov, Aleksandr (28 October 2010). "A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov". Ebury Press – via Amazon.
- "The 'Simples!' idea that became a £10m empire". The Independent. 29 October 2010.
- "It's simples: How Orlov the fictional meerkat wrote a secretly-ghosted best-seller". Daily Mail. 31 October 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Car insurance giant throws in a free meerkat for every policy sold in 'simples' marketing ploy". Daily Mail. 1 July 2011.
- "SIMPLES! Aleksandr the meerkat makes £220million fortune for insurance tycoon on the back of popular advertising campaign for comparison website". Daily Mail. 11 November 2012.
- "Compare the Meerkat Oleg". Compare the Market. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- "Compare the Meerkat Maiya". Compare the Market. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Soskin, David (1 November 2010). Net Profit: How to Succeed in Digital Business. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470660813.