The search strategy behind Compare the Meerkat

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  • September 1, 2009
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Compare the Meerkat is probably one of the best campaigns of the year and has managed to differentiate a boring product in an industry where every competitor is boasting of the same key features and benefits.

The interesting part of the campaign for me is that it was based partially on the fact that “meerkat” had a cost per click of 5 pence compared to £5 for the keyword “market”.

We weren’t sure that we had cracked it with At first they were based in Yorkshire and next door to the offices of

It ticked many of the boxes but research found that the play on words didn’t drive the required affection and in many cases was met with groans. We weren’t sure that it was so bad that it was good.

On the other hand, the website (where you can compare thousands of meerkats) seemed to capture the imagination in research. In exploring this idea we also found that cost per click on meerkats was in the region of 5p (market was £5)

So we rebriefed the idea to the creatives asking them to create layers of character, warmth and affection. Aleksandr Orlov was born. A loveable but complex character who is desperately frustrated by the confusion between and

It’s very hard to be different in a market driven by technology and that’s why these campaigns are so important – 1500 TV ads a day all saying the same thing is amazing in any market.

When you think about it a comparison site is really quite something. Put your details in once and search 400 prices in twenty seconds. It used to take all morning to phone round three.

That is why all the brands were trying to say the same thing. The thinking was that the generic benefit is so amazing that if you could own it you would win. A good summary of the battle is ‘spend more than the competition on communicating the generic benefit’.

Not surprisingly the ads were perceived to all be the same – computer screens, cars with stars and price saving claims.

In a period of land grab the advertising ran at incredibly high weights – four major players shared around 1,500 TV spots a day.
Nor did we have anything different to say that would help us form a new differentiating story. The truth is that to all intents and purposes all the sites are the same.

‘You could save up to £300’, ‘We compare more insurers than anybody else’, the price you see is the price you pay,’ ‘almost everybody in the country could save’.

Everybody’s facts and benefits were the same. By increasingly focusing on ‘differentiating’ claims in advertising all the sites increasingly blended into one.

So the first thing was to recognise that we couldn’t differentiate rationally. People were sick of the rational stuff and weren’t really listening. How do they know if one claim is better than another?

It’s also interesting how driving increased brand led search traffic was at the heart of the campaign, something that should be key to any campaign I suppose.

If comparison sites want to keep costs down they have to get people to type in their brand name. Google charge less if people search by brand name, they charge more if they search for something generic (ie car insurance).

With a relatively low spend, creating affection for the name was crucial. Not that easy with a name like ours.

Research showed us that getting people to remember compare was relatively easily done. In research (which doesn’t exist) was as well remembered as People would describe gocompare’s ads and site and attribute them to (and visa versa). Owning comparison or being associated with comparison wasn’t going to be enough and would consign us to being a small player.

The only thing that distinguished us from the competition was ‘market’. We felt that it was by drawing attention to this that we might be able to create space between us and the competition.

My favourite part of the campaign is the Twitter account because it doesn’t even try to link or mention – everything is pointing to

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