Compare the Market is canning its long-lasting toy promotion to focus on its Meerkat Movies drive, a move which may come as a blow to customers collecting the furry specimens.
The price comparison website has had success offering free meerkat mascots to new customers as a means of driving footfall and retention, but after seven years it is retiring the scheme.
That means members of the public will have a tough time acquiring Aleksandr Orlov and Sergie toys. The brand has been driving commerce by encouraging people to collect all the dolls but the Compare the Market website underlined that fictional meerkat toy-maker Yakov is on a "break" at least hinting at an eventual return for the toys. The Compare the Market support account on Twitter said: "Rest assured we will still have Limited Editions toys in the future."
A Compare the Market spokesperson told The Drum: "Our chief toy maker, Yakov, is taking a very well deserved rest from making toys. All purchases made from 12 May 2018 no longer qualify for a toy, but will still be eligible for a whole year of 2-for-1 cinema tickets with Meerkat movies.
"Customers already expecting a toy, or have bought a qualifying product before this date and want to claim one, can still do so."
Five years ago the brand hinted that it would retire the meerkats so they've had much more lasting power than was initially thought.
Now it is focusing on Meerkat Movies, the spiritual movie ticket promotion successor to Orange Wednesdays, in partnership with Cinema First. At the time, Mark Vile, Compare The Market marketing director, said: “This is the biggest step change for the brand since launching the Meerkat Toy Collection in July 2011 and signals our commitment to rewarding customer loyalty." It appears to have taken priority over the toy promotion for now.
It comes as The Drum understands the brand is soon to launch a new marketing campaign, which may pull in a different direction away from its faithful mascots that have starred alongside the likes of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman, Star Wars, The Kingsmen and Macaulay Culkin.
The initial use of meerkat instead of market appears to be an attempt to drive down SEO prices from £5 to 5p, a move which delivered more impressions for the brand's buck.