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|Compare The Meerkat|
|Compare The Meerkat|
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".
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.
In the first set of old adverts, Aleksandr used to advertise both Compare the Market and Compare the Meerkat website because he believed that a lot people mixed up car insurance with meerkats and ended the video with "Simples!" followed by a squeak. But now he just advertises Compare the Market and sometimes says "Simples" at the end.
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.
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:
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".
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.
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:
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.
Compare the Meerkat is also popular in Australia.
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 No. 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.
So popular are these toys, that the marketing campaign involving them has doubled the company owner's personal fortune. 
On eBay, complete collections of these toys regularly sell for between £70 to over £150.
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