Adwatch (Aug 10) - Meerkat toys a hit with audience

The consistent evolution of and creative dedication to the meerkat idea is inspiring.

Millie Tipple, aged 13, is quite hard to impress. As her dad, I am heartened by this fact. We have clearly raised a discerning and independent-minded child. I expect, in time, only the most eligible and decent to come calling for her.

To me as an adman, though, she's a nightmare. I am crushed on an almost daily basis by her withering assessments of our industry's best efforts so carefully placed around her favourite TV viewing.

The words 'It's OK' have surely never broken a man's soul as brutally as when delivered by my daughter after I've enthusiastically shown her the prevailing ad of the moment. She doesn't even pretend (despite all we've done for her) when the ad in question is one of ours.

So, imagine my surprise when, the other day, she asked whether our car insurance was due for renewal soon. I was intrigued. She'd never previously shown any interest in this mundane fact of life. It turned out, of course, that she was less concerned with the competitiveness of our quotes than she was interested in owning her own meerkat. What's more, she'd got the idea from a TV ad. A really nice TV ad, as it turned out when she happily rewound Modern Family to show me.

Aleksandr and Sergei enter an office building and tell the bemused security guard that they are looking for a Steve Smith. He sends them to the third floor where they find Steve, who recently bought car insurance via Comparethemarket.com, and reward him with a free meerkat toy. In a subsequent ad, they visit pet insurance-purchaser Sarah Roberts in her home to reward her with a Bogdan toy.

On the face of it, this is the second-oldest trick in the ad book - 'do this/ get that' - but in the hands of the meerkats it feels fresh and appealing all over again. The spot is beautifully crafted, as we've come to expect. The script is properly funny and the puppetry seems to keep getting better and better. How they get all the 'players' to interact so well on screen beats me.

This is a client that understands the power of engagement and wants to stand out in a category that was supposed to be low-involvement and attritional. The consistent evolution of, and dedication to, this idea inspires where others just repeat.

We are witnessing a great advertising idea becoming a great marketing idea. You get the sense that the entire organisation has been energised by the power of creatively rethinking a problem.

The curmudgeonly among us may question the power of a toy to sell insurance policies, but that misses the pulling power of this property. In the world of commodity that comparison sites have created, this is probably just enough to make the sale.

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