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VCCP founder admits a famous campaign can be ‘a double edged sword’ for agencies

Priest

Priest

The founder of the agency behind Compare the Meerkat campaign VCCP has admitted having a successful campaign that becomes intrinsically linked with an agency is a “double-edged sword”, adding he wants its Sydney office to become known  for effective campaigns across a range of clients.

Ian Priest told Mumbrella that two years on from the opening of the Sydney branch of the agency with Compare the Market as a founding client “I’d like us to be known for more than just Compare the Meerkat as we are starting to be known, but to have three or four landmark clients that deliver that sort of thing”.

He admitted it was not cut and dried that the successful UK campaign featuring meerkat Aleksandr Orlov would be used in Australia, adding: “Not all ideas travel. We knew that idea worked in the UK, obviously there are similarities of language and culture but you still have to make sure it will work over here. Is Compare the Market in the same competitive situation? Are there the same business objectives?

“It was an open brief. We didn’t start with meerkat, we started with the brief but meerkat was the best choice.”

The brand initially launched in Australia with an animated ad with no meerkats in sight.

While the campaign follows a similar track to that of the UK, the VCCP Australian office hasn’t just been adapting the campaign for local use but also coming up with original work as dictated by the brand’s local needs.

“Some people probably just see Compare the Market as adapts from the UK, there have been some adapts but there has been a hell of a lot of original work,” said Priest.

The first original work launched in June 2013 as a digital campaign featuring a 90-second “public service announcement” on the Compare The Meerkat Facebook page, urging Australians to get their ears checked so as not to confuse websites comparethemeerkat.com.au and comparethemarket.com.au.

The locally produced content for the campaign has continued to increase, with VCCP managing director Peter Grenfell telling Mumbrella in March that the ads are much more tailored then they were in the launch phase.

“The first couple of ads we did when we started a year ago were change the logo and change the voiceover, gradually over time the ads have become more and more tailored and more and more Australian,” he said.

The most recent Australian Compare the Market ad saw meerkat Aleksandr Orlov tell the story of how his family came to live in Russia. The campaign first aired in the UK three years ago.

But Priest, who is chairman of UK industry body the IPA and was in Sydney to launch the IPA’s professional development courses in partnership with the Communications council, admitted a successful campaign that becomes intrinsically linked with an agency is a “double-edged sword”, Priest said.

“You become famous for it, and then some clients will come to you and ask ‘can you do me a meerkat?’

“It’s great to get people through the door,” he said on the campaign’s success.

“We just need to ensure we’re coming up with ideas that are spreadable but relevant to each brand’s needs and objectives. Why we’re in business is to do work that works for the clients but also works for your agency and allows you to grow,” he added.

On where he would like to see the Sydney arm of the agency go in its next two years, Priest said more well-known, famous campaigns and awards.

“I’d like us to be known for more than just Compare the Meerkat as we are starting to be known, but to have three or four landmark clients that deliver that sort of thing,” he said before adding awards would also be nice.

“Not creative gongs,” he clarified. “Effectiveness awards. To be effective, you’ve got to be creative.”

VCCP’s clients include Ancestry.com.au, Rollie Nation, Stylethread.com.au, Tafe Western Sydney Institute, Appliances Online, McDonald’s People Brand and Foodbank NSW. The Sydney office currently employs around 20 people.

Miranda Ward

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