Anybody who has a television set and resides in the UK is already likely to have an idea what this blog entry is about from reading its title. For those not in the know, the phenomenon which is the rise of price comparison websites is one which has permeated nearly every form of media in the last 5-10 years, to the extent to which if I was to turn on the television/radio right now I am sure that I will encounter an advert from one of these companies.
If by some chance you live under a rock and have no idea what I am talking about, a price comparison website is a website (clearly) where, for free, browsers can compare the price of various products and services. Normally these are centered around insurance (car in particular), but energy, financial services and even groceries can be compared directly to see which company provides you the cheapest price or greatest additional benefits. In the recession-ridden UK these companies have become big business, making over £1billion in turnover, thanks to a nation of customers all trying to save as much money as possible.
As a result, competition is fierce between comparison sites and in order to gain maximum exposure to customers they have turned from very simple, even meek adverts to big budget blockbusters involving Hollywood celebrities, explosions and even animated zoo animals. Here is a short summary of the most notable campaigns:
GoCompare-all involving an Italian/Welsh opera singer, who pops up at random moments to burst into a chorus of ‘Go Compareeee’ and various added lyrics.
MoneySupermarket.com-using celebrities/comedians/ex deputy prime ministers in comical situations to explain their product.
ComparetheMarket-a community of Russian meerkats tries to make the distinction between their own website ‘comparethemeerkat’ and the one of the comparison site. Complete with free meerkat toys when the site is used to purchase insurance.
Confused.com-less flashy campaign with stick figures bursting into chorus of various songs.
Even though these campaigns have had varying degrees of success, their high visibility has meant that the market has very nearly reached saturation point for customers. From a personal perspective I always use the same site regardless of the advertising I see simply because of the fact I am used to the layout and they have all my details stored. The companies have realized this too yet have responded quite differently; GoCompare and ComparetheMarket, companies which have had the most success with the long running campaigns, have merely decided to variate on their existing theme. ‘Compare…’ has canned the Meerkats in their main adverts, instead replacing them with a questionable human counterpart who rants against the success of the Meerkats (who themselves appear in Coronation Street adverts). GoCompare however has quickly realized the annoyance which their catchy theme tune created, and subsequently attempted to have well-known celebrities (including Stephen Hawking) kill off their singer, and have now attempted to make him appear more human in more recent adverts.
Whilst it may be a mistake for either company to get rid of their mascot completely, I feel that GoCompare has been much more successful in carving out this new niche of self-depricating ads, although where they can go from here is a good question. MoneySupermarket has reverted to using unknown actors to highlight how good/rich saving money will make them feel, although 70’s style haircuts and Dynasty-Style sets do little to make the adverts memorable, save Patrick Stewart’s voice booming out ‘you’re so moneysupermarket’. However the breadth of products the website can compare and its ease of use have meant it still pips the Meerkats to 2nd position. Confused.com’s lacklustre adverts have seen them fall into fourth place in terms of popularity, but their tie up with nectar does give them a unique selling point, even compared to Tesco’s effort which no longer offers any loyalty bonus points for using them!
As long as customers are looking to save money there will always be a market for these websites, and with more and more extravagant advertising budgets being handed out to them it will be very interesting to watch what happens.