A popular advertising campaign featuring Russian meerkats is to be pulled from TV news sections in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
For 13 years British TV viewers have enjoyed the adventures of eccentric Russian billionaire meerkat Aleksandr Orlov and his tech-wizard sidekick Sergei.
The adverts have been such a success that they have catapulted Comparethemarket to the top of the UK’s comparison site market and at one point even sparked a petition aiming to get Aleksandr’s ‘simples’ catchphrase into the English dictionary.
But Comparethemarket says it will now stop the adverts from appearing during TV news periods and around ‘distressing content’ involving the Ukraine conflict.
A spokesperson for the company, which is owned by the Peterborough-based financial services firm BGL, told MailOnline: ‘The Comparethemarket meerkats are fictional characters.
‘They have no association with Russia and the current situation. We are continually reviewing our advertising to ensure we’re being sensitive to the current situation.’
CGI characters Aleksandr and Orlov first graced British TV screens in 2009. At first the marketing campaign solely featured around eccentric Russian billionaire Aleksandr, his tech-support Sergei, and their website ‘Compare The Meerkat’.
For 13 years British TV viewers have enjoyed the adventures of Russian billionaire meerkat Aleksandr Orlov and his tech-wizard sidekick Sergei
Compare the Market’s Russian meerkats advertising series is to be pulled from TV news sections in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
But Compare the Market says it will now stop the adverts from appearing during TV news periods and content involving the Ukraine conflict.
The original adverts were about the confusion between their website and the real life Comparethemarket.
Once the confusion had been resolved, Aleksandr would sign off with the catchphrase ‘Simples’.
The advertising series was an instant success, catapulting little-known Comparethemarket from the 16th most visited insurance website to the fourth within a year.
It also became part of popular culture, with Aleksandr’s catchphrase featuring in comedy series The Inbetweeners and the company later doing tie-ups with long-running ITV soap Coronation Street – which it sponsored for eight years.
Following a petition, ‘Simples’ was added to the dictionary in 2019, along with Jedi and ‘chillax’ – a contraction of the words ‘chill’ and ‘relax’.
In 2015, the advert series was ranked as the second best UK TV advert of all time in, beating Budweiser’s ‘Whasssuuuppp’ and the famous Smash Martians. It lost out on top to the Cadbury Gorilla.
The advertising series later expanded with new characters, including Maiya, Yakov, Vassily and Bogdan, as well as the most recent permanent edition, the ‘meerpup’ Oleg.
It also sparked merchandise, with Comparethemarket giving away Aleksandr and Sergei stuffed dolls to those who bought insurance through the site until 2018.
In 2010 Orlov’s ‘autobiography’ was released, entitled ‘A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov’.
The advertising series was an instant success, catapulting little-known Compare The Market from the 16th most visited insurance website to the fourth within a year
It also sparked merchandise, with Compare The Meerkat giving away Aleksandr and Sergei stuffed dolls to those who bought insurance through the site
Amazingly, the book generated more pre-orders than that of other books released at the same time including Tony Blair’s memoirs and the autobiographies of comedian turned activist Russell Brand, singer Cheryl Cole and Only Fools and Horses star David Jason.
But it was not without controversy. In 2009, The Guardian ran a column accusing the campaign of ‘racism’ due because of its ‘mocking’ of eastern European accents.
However, the advertising campaign survived and still continues on British screens today. The Advertising Standards Authority said it had not received any similar complaints and, until now, Aleksandr had continued to feature on British screens.
It comes after supermarkets came under pressure from shoppers on social media last week to rename the humble ‘Chicken Kiev’ to the Ukrainian spelling of ‘Chicken Kyiv’. Kiev is derived from the Russian name while Kyiv is derived from the Ukrainian language name.
MailOnline has contacted BGL for a comment but has so far not received a response.
Today, as the fighting continued in Ukraine, smirking Vladimir Putin ranted about the West’s ’empire of lies’ as worldwide sanctions caused the rouble to tumble and sparked a nationwide rush to withdraw cash.
The currency sank 30% in early trading before easing back to stand 20% down. Its collapsing value risks wiping out the savings of ordinary Russians, who have been seen flocking to ATMs all over the country to empty their accounts, including in Putin’s home city of St Petersburg.
But as the Russian economy tanked, the Russian President took another swipe at Western sanctions today during an emergency meeting with economic officials at the Kremlin.
‘I’ve invited you here to talk about issues to do with the economy,’ he told officials with a smirk, adding: ‘I mean of course the sanctions which the so-called Western community – the empire of lies – is trying to implement against our country.’
This afternoon Putin announced a diktat to ban the depositing of cash in any foreign accounts from tomorrow, to stop cash, especially held by rich Russians, moving out of the country and further destablising the economy.
A fresh barrage of sanctions today saw the US cut off the Russian central bank, effectively preventing Americans from doing business with it and severely limiting Russia’s ability to defend its currency.
The US also imposed sanctions on the state investment fund, with an official saying Joe Biden intended to ensure the Russian economy ‘goes backward as long as Putin goes forward with his invasion of Ukraine’.
Meanwhile, famously neutral Switzerland announced it was copying the EU’s sanctions regime and banning five oligarchs from the country.
Russia’s central bank has now more than doubled interest rates to 20% and refused to open the Moscow stock exchange in a desperate attempt to protect its currency and economy.
Vast queues were seen outside cash machines in Russia today, despite the country’s central bank hiking interest rates in a bid to stop a run on the rouble.
Pictures show people in Saint Petersburg queuing around the corner to use nearby ATMs. It comes as fears rise of an economic collapse in Russia due to biting Western sanctions imposed following president Vladimir Putin’s now floundering invasion of Ukraine.
In a bid to stop a potentially disastrous run on the rouble, Russia’s central bank – The Bank of Russia – is hiking interest rates from 9.5 per cent to 20 per cent this morning.
Vast queues have been seen outside Russian ATMs despite the country’s central bank hiking interest rates in a bid to stop a run on the rouble
In a bid to stop a run on the rouble, Russia’s central bank, The Bank of Russia, is hiking interest rates from 9.5 per cent to 20 per cent this morning. Pictured: Residents queue to withdraw cash in Saint Petersburg
Its board of directors blamed a ‘drastic change’ on the ‘external conditions for the economy’ behind the massive interest rate hike.
Top economists and the finance ministry also ordered exporting companies to sell 80 per cent of their foreign currency revenues on the market to try to support the rouble – the value of which continued to collapse against the dollar and the euro on the Moscow Stock Exchange on Monday.
Despite banking chiefs attempting to steady the ship, the Russian rouble plummeted 30 per cent overnight to an all-time low as the West’s sanctions over the Ukraine war start to squeeze the economy.
The European Central Bank also warned on Monday that the European subsidiary of the Russian state-owned Sberbank – one of the Russian banks under UK sanctions – was facing bankruptcy.
Western nations imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s country after he launched a brutal war on neighbouring Ukraine last week, with the UK, US and EU cranking up restrictions in recent days.