Compare the Meerkat
Aleksandr Orlov, the anthropomorphic Russian meerkat featured in the adverts
|Year:||2009 – present|
Compare the Meerkat is an advertising campaign on British 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", pronounced "Seem-pels".
The campaign, launched in January 2009, was created by Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures, who designed the characters and directs the adverts. 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 in 2009, involving a TV spot, companion website and social media links. The advert featured Alexsandr 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 receives more than 2 million hits per month.
The TV spots, and the characters, were created 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.
In 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.
On October 2010 the character was interviewed "live via satellite" on the ITV show Daybreak.
At the end of each advertisement Aleksandr has two boards with "comparethemeerkat.com" and "comparethemarket.com" and he says "For comparing meerkats come to 'comparethemeerkat.com', for cheap car insurance 'comparethemarket.com'." Then he says his catchphrase, "Simples" followed by a squeak. In November 2012, Compare the meerkat.com toys started sponsoring Coronation Street. The sponsor consisted of Aleksandr and Sergei, along with some meerkat friends, taking a look at Coronation Street.
- "My First TV Ad" (January 2009) - Introducing Aleksandr.
- "Jingles" (February 2009) - Aleksandr shows the differences in the Compare the Market and Meerkat jingles.
- "Sergei" (April 2009) - A new computer server managed by Sergei from IT.
- "Puppets" (July 2009) - Aleksandr's puppet theatre.
- "Jacuzzi" (October 2009) - A relaxing jacuzzi after another day of meerkat and car insurance confusion.
- "The Journey of Courageousness" (January 2010) - The first part of the "Orlov Family History Trilogy", Aleksandr tells the story of his ancestor's journey to Russia from the Kalahari, from where he and some other meerkats fled by sea from a grub famine. In the Kalahari he is depicted as wearing an Arab robe.
- "Art Class" (March 2010) - A reminder from Aleksandr about his ancestor's journey across oceans.
- "The Battle of Fearlessness" (April 2010) - The second part of the "Orlov Family History Trilogy", Aleksandr tells the story of his "Great Granddaddy Vitaly's" victory over a Mongolian mongoose army commanded by "Mongis Khan" in the Ural Mountains.
- "The Streets of Ambitiousness" (July 2010) - The final part of the family trilogy. It shows Papa Anton's struggles comparing meerkats on the streets of Moscow.
- "Meerkovo" (January 2011) - a Russian village inhabited by meerkats. Filmed in Kersey, Suffolk.
- "Choir" (April 2011) - The Choir of meerpups at the Meerkovo school sing a special song (to the tune of 'Wheels on the Bus)
- "Tough decision" (January 2012) - Aleksandr gives Sergei a laptop so he can work 24/7. Filmed at Lullingstone Castle
- "Sick Sergei" (March 2012)- Sergei is seen being run urgently through the corridors of a hospital, probably as a result of 'Tough Decision' and his thoughts about Compare the Market comparing credit cards are heard running through his head. Aleksandr is seen in still images, calling out to him, 'Sergi! Come back!'. Sergei then wakes up to see a very stern-looking Aleksandr at the foot of his bed telling him 'You're four days late for work!'
- "Circus" (June 2012) - Aleksandr visits Sergei, who is now working as a circus performer, and tries to convince him to return to his old job. He then asks viewers to give Sergei his dignity back by using comparethemarket.com for car insurance.
- "Meerkat Band" (November 2012) - A band of meerkats, along with Aleksandr, perform a remastered version of the Coronation Street theme tune. Aleksandr, in the end, says 'Hey'
- "Fat Sergei" (February 2013) - Sergei gets fat and loses weight while Aleksandr tells viewers to buy car or home insurance or get energy from CompareTheMarket.com.
- Unwanted Guest Rock * (April 2013)- Compare The Market tries to shut down Compare The Meerkat,
Life and family
Aleksandr's fictional family is described as having lived in Moscow for many generations. His "greatest grandfather", Vitaly, fought in the Meerkat–Mongoose war of the 1850s, and his grandparents survived the "Furry Terror" of 1921. Aleksandr's father Papa Anton participates in boxing.
A series of advertisements have shown Aleksandr and his assistant Sergei act out his ancestors' journeys:
- The first (The Journey of Courageousness) shows him acting as an ancestor of Aleksandr, living in the Kalahari Desert, dressed in Arab robes, until a drought causes a famine and forces him to leave; he is shown walking across a sand dune desert (perhaps the Namib Desert) to a coast, where he makes or finds a boat, and sails away in it, and ends up on a cold coast of Russia.
- The second (The Battle of Fearlessness) shows Aleksandr as "Great Granddaddy Vitaly" in the Ural Mountains with an army of meerkats. He is shown dressed in 19th-century clothes. An army of mongooses commanded by "Mongis Khan" arrives and the two armies fight. Vitaly's army wins the battle, with the mongoose army dispersing.
- Lastly, the final part (The Streets of Ambitiousness) shows him acting as his Papa Anton, starting his career with 'Compare the Meerkat.cart', which does not fare best. To survive he is forced to compare muskrats, showing an image to a muskrat in a dingy alley (a muskrat website was created containing "uncensored images of muskrats"). Finally, Papa Anton opens 'Compare the Meerkat.shop', a store on the streets of Moscow.
According to an interview with Aleksandr's designer and director; Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures, Aleksandr became a billionaire in the 1970s. He lives in Moscow, although he apparently also owns a large mansion in South London. He now spends his time on vanity projects such as his website, numerous self-portraits, petitions and epic film-making.
The campaign has also featured secondary characters from amongst Orlov's friends, family and employees. Most notably Sergei, Orlov's sidekick and technician who has also featured in his own adverts.
In the adverts, Sergei is Orlov's IT technician, tea-maker and sidekick. 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.
On 4 June 2012, an announcement on Sergei's Facebook page was posted saying that he intends to "Quit comparethemeerkat.com" as he is "not the meerkat for the job".
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. A companion website was set up for the campaign containing a map of the town. The new characters were:
- Vassily - a regular at the Queasy Mongoose pub.
- Maiya - a teacher at the Meerkovo School
- Meerpup students - the class at the Meerkovo School (some have been named - one is called Bogdan and another Peter)
- Yakov - the toy maker.
An April 2011 advert features the Meerkovo School pupils singing a song to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus;
Compare the market makes us frown, makes us frown, makes us frown, Compare the market ruined our town, all day long!
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 competitor's 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, described as 'a marker of the tragic state of humanity'. 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.
Beginning in 2013, Aleksandr and the other Meerkovo residents have appeared before and after advertisements during the UK soap opera; Coronation Street, of which comparethemeerkat has become a sponsor for the show.
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, Russell Brand's and Dannii Minogue's autobiographies. The book was published by Ebury Publishing and the autobiography reached #2 on the Amazon UK website on its first week of sale in October 2010.
The 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.
- Aleksandr Orlov, people with the same name as the character in these adverts
- Monkey, another popular anthropomorphic animal used in British advertising on products such as PG Tips and ITV Digital.
- 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 2009-08-01.
- The Guardian 11/08/09
- Tyzack, Anna (2010-01-22). "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 2009-08-01.
- "Marketing Magazine Website 2009". Haymarket Media PLC. 11/08/2009. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- Leach, Ben (13 August 2009). "Meerkat star Compare the Market animal becomes Facebook and Twitter hit". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Beanland, Chris (13 August 2009). "How make TVs funniest ad Its seemples". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov - Amazon.co.uk
- "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.