In the midst of the general apathy that seems to be surrounding TV at the moment, along with the usual sniping about the BBC (bottled water? Rolls eyes), the state of ITV, the fact that Big Brother is still on and nobody noticed, it’s nice to write about something frivolous and fun.
The last few months I have been utterly charmed by the exploits of Aleksandr Orlov, creator of comparethemeerkat.com and his continued frustration over his website being confused for that of an insurance comparison website. It’s a brilliantly conceived ad campaign, and today, the voice behind the debonair meerkat was revealed as that of actor Simon Greenall, probably best known as Alan Partridge’s Geordie sidekick Michael in I’m Alan Partridge.
There’s nothing astounding about this, nothing to comment on, beyond “Aw, that’s nice.” I think Greenall is a great actor - his turn in Alan Partridge is one of the finest comedy performances of the last ten years. And I love Aleksandr Orlov, so putting the two together, well, it’s simples really.
But one has to admire the success of this particular ad campaign in how well it has saturated across the modern media, embracing the new forms of communication out there - it’s insidiously viral in its execution. At the last count, Aleksandr had 525,429 fans on Facebook, which is a prime indicator of how well the character has entered into our popular cultural lexicon.
It’s just a brilliantly executed, modern advertising campaign that has no doubt paid dividends for comparethemarket.com, which has reportedly seen sales double since the launch of the campaign. But the fact that there actually is a comparethemeerkat.com, and you can, if you are so minded, compare meerkats, is the masterstroke here. And yes, I did sit there one night at home and thought: “I wonder if there really is…”. If numbers are to be believed, the website has received over 3 million hits.
Of course the danger is now that the character (along with his IT manager Sergei), becomes so much more than the product it’s designed to advertise. Considering Aleksandr’s popularity, it’s not too much of a leap to his own kids TV show or a Christmas record.
But whatever the future, Aleksandr Orlov is up there with the Smash robots, the Homepride flour graders and the Typhoo chimps as one of the greats of television advertising. I look forward to Stuart Maconie talking about him on a nostalgic documentary in about ten years time.