It’s one of the UK’s most high profile advertising campaigns in recent years, always praised by consumers in research, and I understand that the business has grown greatly since it launched. But I’m not sure it’s quite as good as it is thought to be.
I’m not saying it is out and out bad. In fact I can see a lot of good in it: it brought personality to a sector devoid of it, creatively it isn’t just a rip off of either the latest film, music video, or someone else’s advertising from another sector / country, and it is talked about, and the business has grown – although so it should have done, as there had been no significant advertising previously.
So all good so far, but I think advertising that receives as much praise as the meerkats do, needs to do more and I think it is deficient in a number of respects, and becoming increasingly so.
First off, at launch it was name recognition advertising. Necessary at launch, but we are years into the campaign now and not only has it never moved on from that, but it doesn’t even seem to be doing that so well now: it seems to be becoming increasingly self serving. We are now seeing advertising about the advertising rather than advertising about the brand that is paying for the advertising: advertising about meerkat merchandise rather than insurance.
In fact after years of advertising it still hasn’t managed to tell me anything about the product except which category it operates in. And increasingly it doesn’t even seem to be doing that as the brand becomes subsumed by the mnemonic.
The commercial problem with advertising that says nothing about the product and depends entirely on likeability is that it is also entirely dependent on spend and share of voice to keep working. In the dim and distant past as a Brand Manager I worked on a brand that also had some of the most liked advertising of its day but we could it take off air for a year and see almost no decline in any commercial measure because the advertising was rooted in a differentiating product truth. I fear that if the meerkats came off air even for a short period the brand, not just the product, would quickly be forgotten. (I have no idea if there is anything differentiating to say about Compare the Market, which is in itself a shame, but of course we can’t blame the agency for communicating nothing if there is nothing to communicate)
So I am not saying the meerkats are bad advertising: VCCP are a very good agency and I’m sure most creatives would love to have the meerkats on their reel, but I’m not sure it is quite as good as it is said to be.
But I don’t want to be too sour grapes about it: I’d much rather watch the meerkats than some depressing slice of life, problem / solution advertising with a CGI product demo slapped in the middle that achieved the desultory distinction of ‘High, High, High’ in a Link test.