I Smell A Rat – Or Is It A Meerkat?

Twitter

Deep breath…

There’s this campaign right, it’s called Compare The Meerkat, it’s for an insurance comparison website called Compare The Market, the ad is a bit funny. I could try and describe it, but it’s easier to show you:

Yes it’s all about a word gag. But it works. It’s embedded itself in my head. Ask me to think of a comparison website right now and I know what I’ll think of first. Well not actually right now, because I’m writing about it so I’d obviously think about it first, but generally I think it’s done a good job of using a weird device to get me to think about meerkats when I think about comparing. So psychologically they’ve done a smart thing – I think.

The numbers raise a load of questions…

  • On YouTube the ad’s not had loads of views. Does that matter?
  • No idea of traffic to: http://www.comparethemeerkat.com/ – it’s a pretty basic site, but there’s no point in spending any more on it really, it does it’s job as a spoof.
  • But people ‘seem’ to like the Meerkat chap – he’s got 65,000 fans on Facebook FFS!
  • And there are over 1,000 wall posts – that’s pretty phenomenal in my book – given the fact that it’s just a novelty thing

But here’s where it gets a bit fishy…

Aleksandr Orlov (the Meerkat) started following me on Twitter a while ago. And if you go and look at his Twitter page he’s following a huge number of very well-followed people… Dave Winer, Biz Stone, Om Malik, Tom Coates, Evan Williams, Jason Calacanis, etc. etc. etc. And he’s following 2,000 people with 1,800 followers which just isn’t natural, is it?

I’m not sure what the ethics of this kind of thing are. Or why it bothers me so much. All I know is that it makes me feel a bit yucky. And stops me from liking Meerkats.

Whoever is playing the part of Aleksandr is working it pretty hard. And doing lots of @replies. Which isn’t a bad thing when you’ve got a character that people like. It’s just the follower-spamming I find a bit scary.

10 thoughts on “I Smell A Rat – Or Is It A Meerkat?”

  1. It’s the Godin Purple cow thing, isn’t it? Except it’s a brown Meerkat.

    The rest of the comparison sites were still playing around with the white space / normal people / oversimplified explanation ads…

    …including the one that made it seem like choosing car insurance was like being in the white ‘construct’ room in The Matrix. Which it isn’t. At all.

    Anyway, one company that changes to be remarkable in the sector makes people sit up and take notice. It’s not brilliantly clever, but it’s brave for any marketer to step out of the comfort zone.

    Of course, there’s so many aggregator sites around that what we need now is an ‘aggregator of aggregators’…

  2. Whether it’s cows or meerkats, in general terms it’s known as the Von Restorff effect, after the German psychologist who researched it in 1933.

    Put simply, in a list of similar items, one that has strongly distinguishing properties is recalled much more strongly than the rest.

  3. As a close friend of Aleksandr Orlov and his friend Sergei in IT, I thought that I would try to answer some of your questions. As John commented there are so many price comparison websites out there with no clear sense of differentiation that they all start to merge together, plus the advertising is pretty awful lowest common denominator stuff. Its really about Search, when you’re sitting in front of your computer and you want a site comparison site what will you type into Google. Its a “front of mind” campaign and it seems to be working very very well.

    I don’t think that I can attach jepgs to replies, but the stats in terms of http://www.comparethemeerkat.com and http://www.comparethemarket.com are all here. As is the Hitwise UK write up of the initial web results. I think that its fairly impressive, I know that Aleks and Sergei are enormously pleased!

    http://ameliatorode.typepad.com/life_moves_pretty_fast/2009/02/compare-the-market-meerkat-when-social-media-takes-off.html

    The viewing numbers aren’t that high on YouTube as what seems to be happening is that people are emailing the link to the TVCs on the Meerkat website instead. But you are right according to Aleks and Sergei in IT it’s really Facebook where this has taken off. Almost 80,000 friends as of this morning, thousands of comments, hundreds of photos uploaded and ideas for new Meerkats being uploaded daily.

    As for Twitter, Sergei tells me that Aleks uses the Twitter Search functionality to find people who have been talking about meerkats and his ad and follows them. He has also followed some of the Twitterati (apologies for terrible Twitter verbage) Nothing more fishy than that.

    Have a look at the first months results…

    Simples.

    ;-)

  4. Nice reply.

    My only issue is the Twitterati bit – aside from that I quite like the whole thing :-)

  5. Thank you.

    If I am honest with the Twitterati bit ( ie following the “influencers”) the hope was that if one of them picked up and then decided to Re-Tweet the story of Aleks and his meerkat comparison website then it would be another way of spreading the story quickly and building up his Followers (although I believe that we must now say Tweepls instead of Followers…) Did it work? Not sure. Maybe not, but as we told our CTM clients there really aren’t any rules about how to bring creative ideas like this to life in Social Media spaces, you kind of just have to use a bit of imagination and creativity (and sensitivity) and give it a go.

    Interestingly Aleks has a lot of followers from the BBC and newspapers but thinking about it, they came and found him not the other way round I think.

  6. Pingback: Feeding the Puppy
  7. Hello, I found your site after looking up meerkats. I write short stories and have been drawn into writing about meerkats, you’re right, that silly advert does get into ones brain. i wrote one for my daughter called Harvey Meerkat (adventurer) incidentally i like your site!
    all the best
    Harry Riley

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