In 2009*, a CGI meerkat called Aleksandr hit UK screens with a one-word catchphrase and a dressing gown. Since then, price comparison websites have been scrabbling desperately for something that would catch the imagination of the British public in the same way.
Aleksandr now has two websites, a Twitter account, and a book, whereas Money Supermarket and GoCompare have two fat faux foreigners who were never funny**.
VCCP (or Vallance, Carruthers, Coleman and Priest if you like) work with the likes of O2, McDonald's, npower and Aunt Bessie's, producing quirky TV ad campaigns, but I doubt very much that a few drunk creatives could have imagined such longevity, even if now (as I believe) its star is on the wain.
But after sitting through a commercial message for Money Supermarket, featuring two fat talentless tosspot sellouts who should be doing something infinitely more important with the brains God didn't give them - after seeing the one cultural fraud plopping himself between the two hellish creatures from the blonde lagoon that call themselves the Jedwards - I had quite a large sad to myself. But at least those ads are just poor; they're not trying to be irritating.
There's what I firmly believe to be a false maxim in advertising, that anything that gets you talking about a product is a good thing. Now, I'm not an advertising expert, but that's the biggest load of bullballs going. This idea that "you remember the name" is correct, but I also remember Harold Shipman's name but I'm not going to ask him to refill my prescription***.
Making people remember the name for the wrong reasons - we buy any car (dot com) - is a sign of nothing more than lazy thinking. Anybody can come up with a catchy tune or a formulaic novelty campaign; it takes balls to stake your money and reputation on a campaign that might flop, but could possibly catch fire. So laziness is GoCompare's crime, but d'you know what the horrible thing is? It apparently works:
Nick Hall, head of marketing at Go Compare explains the paradox: "We launched the campaign in August last year and within the first three months, we saw a 20 per cent increase in customer count."
from Do annoying ads work?
OK, so the first three months is nothing when you consider the ads have been running since 2009 and back then people hadn't had time to get bored to tears by them, so much that they felt they needed a David Mitchell injection (et tu, Mitchell?)
GoCompare and Money Supermarket are the Nokia and Sony Ericsson of the phone world. Apple is kicking seven varieties of crap out of them but they just keep plodding along, churning out the same old nonsense. They must know it doesn't work even if it used to, they know they're not capturing imaginations, but they simply can't think of anything else to do. Creative batteries dead, fuel tanks dry.
I see a lot less advertising than I used to, but I've always seen it with eyes wide open (a facet of my personality that maddens any of my family members unfortunate to sit near me through any commercial TV broadcast). I also have a nose for irritants, and repetition gets right up it, much faster it seems than for many people. But what also jams its way up my nostrils is bad, lazy advertising, stuff that degrades you, me, the client, the agencies, and everyone involved on and off screen.
VCCP and comparethemarket.com are doubtless a bit complacent, and neither will have a hit like that in a very long time, but they've had a good run, and wrestled as much money out of it as they can, while their competitors have been left fumbling for the secret combination, and never finding it. But all three companies will stick with it until it starts losing them money or face.
* Actually I'm certain it's at least 2008, but I can't find any proof online
** Actually I take that back. Djalili had a 3-minute standup routine before the Mummy came along.
*** That joke still works even though he died 6 years ago. Fact.