Pure and simples: why 'dropping the meerkats' is a great marketing stunt by Compare the Market

Cameron Clarke is The Drum's opinion editor. He oversees blogs, comment and news analysis pieces.

The meerkats are one of the most popular advertising creations of all time.

We haven't seen the last of Aleksandr

Since their arrival on our screens in 2009 they have been credited with doubling the value of the Compare the Market business and propelling its owner Douw Steyn towards an estimated £420m fortune.

Like ITV Digital’s Monkey and Levi’s Flat Eric, the cuddly creatures have been turned into toys and their ‘Simples’ catchphrase has even entered the Collins English Dictionary.

But despite being voted the most liked ads of 2012, the meerkats are going to be axed from Compare the Market's advertising campaigns if you believe reports in the tabloid press.

They have already been replaced by cult comedian Robert Webb in the price comparison site’s latest TV commercials.

It is a bold move as the Peep Show actor is unlikely to have the same universal appeal as charming Aleksandr and co.

But it may be a smart tactic.

In an age when it is so easy for viewers to skip TV ads, giving the meerkats a breather means there is less chance of the public growing tired of them.

Ad agency VCCP have been inundated with questions about the meerkats’ whereabouts – and were awfully coy about whether they would be back when asked by The Drum.

So expect to see a Facebook campaign any minute now clamouring for their return.

The fact that people are already missing the meerkats, and the coverage Compare the Market has received in today's newspapers, tells you all you need to know about the advertising campaign’s success.

Taking the meerkats off our screens for a little while might just be a PR masterstroke.

Because Compare the Market can then sell itself as the company that listens to its customers when it inevitably brings them back 'by popular demand'.

As Aleksandr would say: simples.

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Cameron Clarke

Cameron Clarke has been a journalist at The Drum for more than 10 years and is now its Deputy Editor. Based in the UK, he is primarily responsible for overseeing The Drum's coverage of the media industry and marketing agencies. His work includes long reads on Brewdog, Patagonia, De Correspondent and the future of sports rights. He was named Feature Writer of the Year at the 2017 PPA Scottish Magazine Awards.

All by Cameron