- Aleksandr Orlov (advertising)
Aleksandr Orlov Compare The Meerkat character
First appearance January 2009 Created by
VCCP AgencyDesigned & directed by = Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures
Voiced by Simon Greenall Website http://www.comparethemeerkat.com/ Information Species Meerkat Gender Male Occupation AristoKat/Website Owner/Actor Nationality Russian
Aleksandr Orlov (Russian: Александр Орлов) is a fictional CGI anthropomorphic Russian meerkat. He is portrayed as being of aristocratic stock, and the founder of www.comparethemeerkat.com. The character is central to an advertising campaign on British commercial television for comparethemarket.com, a price comparison website. It launched in January 2009 and centres on his frustration that people keep coming to his website looking for car insurance, not meerkats, because 'Market' sounds similar to 'Meerkat' when spoken in a Russian accent.
Orlov's catchphrase is 'Simples', pronounced 'Seem-pels'. He, and the other meerkat characters, were brought to life by the award-winning Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures, who designed the characters and directs the commercials and television appearances.
Life and family
Aleksandr's fictional family is described as having lived in Moscow for many generations. His "greatest grandfather", Vitaly, fought in the Meerkat–Mongoose war of the 1850s, and his grandparents survived the "Furry Terror" of 1921. Aleksandr's father Papa Anton participates in boxing.
A series of advertisements have shown Aleksandr and his assistant Sergei act out his ancestors' journeys:
- The first (The Journey of Courageousness) shows him acting as an ancestor of Aleksandr, living in the Kalahari Desert, dressed in Arab robes, until a drought causes a famine and forces him to leave; he is shown walking across a sand dune desert (perhaps the Namib Desert) to a coast, where he makes or finds a boat, and sails away in it, and ends up on a cold coast of Russia.
- The second (The Battle of Fearlessness) shows Aleksandr as "Great Granddaddy Vitaly" in the Ural Mountains with an army of meerkats. He is shown dressed in 19th-century clothes. An army of mongooses commanded by "Mongis Khan" arrives and the two armies fight. Vitaly's army wins the battle, with the mongoose army dispersing.
- Lastly, the final part (The Streets of Ambitiousness) shows him acting as his Papa Anton, starting his career with 'Compare the Meerkat.cart', which does not fare best. To survive he is forced to compare muskrats, showing an image to a muskrat in a dingy alley (a muskrat website was created containing "uncensored images of muskrats"). Finally, Papa Anton opens 'Compare the Meerkat.shop', a store on the streets of Moscow.
According to an interview with Aleksandr's designer and director; Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures, Aleksandr became a billionaire in the 1970s. He lives in Moscow, although he apparently also owns a large mansion in South London. He now spends his time on vanity projects such as his website, numerous self-portraits, various petitions (whether it be banning 'comparethemuskrat.com or beating Sergei at Scrabble by adding a word to the dictionary), and epic film-making (mostly starring himself and Sergei).
Aleksandr stated in an interview on his official Facebook that he is not married and has no children, despite having many marriage proposals.
At the end of each advertisement Aleksandr has two boards with "comparethemeerkat.com" and "comparethemarket.com" and he says "For comparing meerkats come to 'comparethemeerkat.com', for cheap car insurance 'comparethemarket.com'." Then he says his catchphrase, "Simples" followed by a squeak.
- "My First TV Ad" (January 2009) - Introducing Aleksandr.
- "Jingles" (February 2009) - Aleksandr shows the differences in the Compare the Market and Meerkat jingles.
- "Sergei" (April 2009) - A new computer server managed by Sergei from IT.
- "Puppets" (July 2009) - Aleksandr's puppet theatre.
- "Jacuzzi" (October 2009) - A relaxing jacuzzi after another day of meerkat and car insurance confusion.
- "The Journey of Courageousness" (January 2010) - The first part of the "Orlov Family History Trilogy", Aleksandr tells the story of his ancestor's journey to Russia from the Kalahari, from where he and some other meerkats fled by sea from a grub famine. In the Kalahari he is depicted as wearing an Arab robe.
- "Art Class" (March 2010) - A reminder from Aleksandr about his ancestor's journey across oceans.
- "The Battle of Fearlessness" (April 2010) - The second part of the "Orlov Family History Trilogy", Aleksandr tells the story of his "Great Granddaddy Vitaly's" victory over a Mongolian mongoose army commanded by "Mongis Khan" in the Ural Mountains.
- "The Streets of Ambitiousness" (July 2010) - The final part of the family trilogy. It shows Papa Anton's struggles comparing meerkats on the streets of Moscow.
- "Meerkovo" (January 2011) - a Russian village inhabited by meerkats. Filmed in Kersey, Suffolk.
- "Choir" (April 2011) - The Choir of meerpups at the Meerkovo school sing a special song (to the tune of 'Wheels on the Bus)
Recently another character, Sergei, appeared in his own ad. He is Aleksandr's IT technician and tea-maker. Before working for Aleksandr, he used to be head of the principal design group for the Soviet Space Programme during the 1980s. He designed the Mir(kat) Space Station, and now works with Aleksandr and 'Compare the Meerkat'. Sergei is first seen in the ad "Sergei", and later guests in "Jacuzzi", "Art Class" and all three of the 'Orlov Family Trilogy' advertisements. Sergei had been frequently mentioned on Aleksandr's Twitter and Facebook accounts, one time was prior to being included in an advert, and Aleksandr even started a petition to add the word 'Simples' to the dictionary because Sergei didn't approve of the word in a game of Scrabble.
The 2011 campaign focuses on a Russian village named Meerkovo, which is in danger because of the confusion over Comparethemeerkat.com and Comparethemarket.com - featuring several inhabitants of the town complaining. New characters have been introduced for this campaign which have been designed by Darren Walsh:
- Vassily - a regular at the Queasy Mongoose pub.
- Maiya - a teacher at the Meerkovo School
- Meerpup students - the class at the Meerkovo School (some have been named - one is called Bogdan)
- Yakov - the toy maker.
One of the recent ads, from April 2011, features the Meerkovo School pupils singing a song to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. Here are the lyrics:
"Compare the market makes us frown, makes us frown, makes us frown, Compare the market ruined our town, all day long!
There is also a website promoting Meerkovo. It shows a map of the town, where people can take a look inside Aleksandr's Mansion, The Care home for older meerkats, the Meerkovo School, Yakov's Toy Shop and the local pub, the Queasy Mongoose. People can also take a quiz on the town.
The TV campaign, featuring Aleksandr, was created by the VCCP Agency on behalf of BGL Group. The website – which is a real website created by the advertising agency – does indeed allow visitors to compare meerkats, and has more than 2 million hits per month 
In August 2009 an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper accused the advert series of racism for mocking Eastern European accents, however the Advertising Standards Authority, following a complaint by the author of the article, stated that it had not received any similar complaints.
Aleksandr Orlov, and the other characters, have been brought to life and designed by Darren Walsh at Passion Pictures. Darren Walsh has directed all of the television and cinema commercials featuring Aleksandr Orlov. Darren Walsh has won several awards for his work in designing and directing the Aleksandr Orlov commercials.
On October 28, 2010 Aleksandr had his first television interview on the ITV show, Daybreak.
BGL's comparethemarket.com website is now ranked as the 4th most visited insurance website in the UK – up from 16th in January 2008; and overall sales have more than doubled year on year as a result of the TV ‘meerkat campaign’. As of August 2009[update], Aleksandr had more than 700,000 Facebook fans and 22,000 followers on Twitter, while on photo-sharing site Flickr there is a popular gallery of Aleksandr's family, described as 'a marker of the tragic state of humanity'.
The character remains extremely popular and a record company has expressed an interest in releasing a single featuring Aleksandr.
Orlov's "autobiography" was released on 28 October 2010, entitled "A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov". The book generated more pre-orders than that of other books released at the same time including Tony Blair's memoirs and more than double the pre-orders of Cheryl Cole's, Russell Brand's and Danii Minogue's autobiographies. The book was published by Ebury Publishing and the autobiography reached #2 on the Amazon UK website on its first week of sale in October 2010.
There are several downloads available on the website such as wallpapers, ringtones, text alerts, voicemail messages and some commercial videos. A branded iPhone application is also available for iPhone users, containing background information, an extensive database of English phrases in "meerkat" pronunciation (created from audio clips from the TV Ads), a mongoose "detector", and a collection of some of the videos produced by Aleksandr.
Toys incarnating the meerkats in plush form have been produced. From July 2011, any customer who purchases car, home or pet insurance via the Compare the Market website will receive a plush toy of their choice. Customers have the choice of six meerkat characters: Aleksandr, Sergei, Vassily, Maiya, Yakov and Bogdan have been made.
- Darren Walsh
- Orlov (surname)
- Monkey advertising character, another popular anthropomorphic animal used in British advertising on products such as PG Tips and ITV Digital.
- GEICO gecko, Cockney-accented character in a similar campaign for GEICO insurance in the United States since 1999.
- ^ Tyzack, Anna (2010-01-22). "Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Meerkat answers some simples questions". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/7044823/Aleksandr-Orlov-of-Compare-the-Meerkat-answers-some-simples-questions.html.
- ^ Meerkovo.com
- ^ The word "simples" is valid in English language Scrabble because it is plural of "simple" used as a noun to mean a type of herbal medicine: see wikt:simple#Noun.
- ^ "How Passion created Aleks the billionaire meerkat". Digitalartsonline.co.uk. http://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/news/index.cfm?newsid=12010. Retrieved 2009-08-01.
- ^ Hickman, Martin (29 October 2010). "The 'Simples!' idea that became a £10m empire". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/the-simples-idea-that-became-a-16310m-empire-2119590.html.
- ^ The Guardian 11/08/09
- ^ Aleksandr Orlov on the ITV show, Daybreak - YouTube. - Retrieved October 28, 2010
- ^ "VCCP Website 2009". Vccp.com. http://www.vccp.com/showcase/comparethemarket.asp. Retrieved 2009-08-01.
- ^ "Marketing Magazine Website 2009". Haymarket Media PLC. 11/08/2009. http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/news/926189/Comparethemarketcoms-success-makes-rival-price-comparison-sites-re-evaluate-strategies/. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- ^ Leach, Ben (13 August 2009). "Meerkat star Compare the Market animal becomes Facebook and Twitter hit". Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6020167/Meerkat-star-Compare-the-Market-animal-becomes-Facebook-and-Twitter-hit.html. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- ^ Beanland, Chris (13 August 2009). "How make TVs funniest ad Its seemples". Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1205909/How-make-TVs-funniest-ad-Its-seemples.html. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- ^ A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov - Amazon.co.uk
- ^ "The 'Simples!' idea that became a £10m empire". The Independent. 29 October 2010. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/the-simples-idea-that-became-a-16310m-empire-2119590.html.
- ^ "It's simples: How Orlov the fictional meerkat wrote a secretly-ghosted best-seller". Daily Mail. 31 October 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1325327/Orlov-fictional-meerkat-writes-secretly-ghosted-best-seller.html. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- ^ "Car insurance giant throws in a free meerkat for every policy sold in ‘simples’ marketing ploy". Daily Mail. 1 July 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-2010169/New-business-idea-Simples-Aleksandr-turned-soft-toy-given-customers.html.
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