A clever search strategy driven by TV advertising
As many brands know, competing in paid search engine results is both important, and hugely competitive. If you’re a digital business, in a notoriously tough market, and without a distinguishable product, the ability to outrank other market players in search becomes even harder. This is the exact position UK-based insurance aggregator comparethemarket.com found themselves in, in 2009. It’s also the position that led to the production of ads featuring Russian meerkat Aleksandr Orlov, star of my all-time favourite campaign, ‘Compare the Meerkat’.
At a time when bidding on the term ‘compare’ would cost the equivalent of $24 per click, and the term ‘market’ $10, comparethemarket.com were in a bind. They were lagging considerably behind other UK-led comparison sites, all bidding on the same terms and preaching the same benefits. The only way to compete was to do something different, something that would give the brand maximum share of search engine results, and in turn, web traffic.
Enter the meerkat
Partnering with agency VCCP, the teams devised a strategy to optimise for the term ‘meerkat’, instead of ‘market’, after discovering its bidding cost at just $0.10 per click. So, a multi-channel campaign was planned to span across TV, search, social media, and a micro-site. The campaign was centred on a group of Russian meerkats, complaining about people wrongly searching comparethemeerkat.com for their price comparisons. The mass-broadcast meerkats were lovable, funny, and quickly adored by many in the UK. They actually encouraged viewers not to search comparethemeerkat.com, which of course, plenty then did. In my mind, this is a genius approach to using traditional media for solving a huge digital obstacle.
Within two years, comparethemarket.com was the UK’s fourth most visited insurance website and the site market share was increased by 76%. Viewers fell in love with the meerkat characters and their stories, with merchandise in high-demand for years to come. The sign-off line ‘Simples’ even made it into the English Oxford Dictionary!
Today, the meerkats continue to be completely synonymous with the brand in the UK, and the campaign was launched to the Australian market in 2013. I highly doubt even VCCP expected ‘Compare the Meerkats’ to be such a phenomenal success. It remains to be, the most innovative, successful, and entertaining attempt at solving a search engine ranking, and digital market share issue, that I’ve encountered.
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