THE nation’s favourite meerkats have been given a touch of Wigan glamour.
The Compare The Market characters have been unleashed on a new advert, which features Gary Barlow and - more importantly - Kittywake Canal Cruises, an educational and party boat based at Wigan Pier.
Although the ad was not filmed in Wigan, owners Sandy and Steve Carrington drove their boat along the Leeds Liverpool Canal to Castlefield, where it sat alongside the towpath.
Viewers first caught a glimpse of the ad after ITV’s Coronation Street on Monday, where lead meerkat Aleksandr Orlov pesters X Factor judge Gary Barlow to sing on the soap.
He then hoodwinks the singer into thinking he wants his autograph, before passing his own signature to the bemused star.
The clip will be used between now and Christmas between ad breaks for Coronation Street, as Compare The Market is the soap’s sponsor.
Sandy, 49, of Garswood, said: “It was amazing for our canal boat to be part of the filming.
“ITV had obviously heard of us and what we do with our party/educational boat and so producers rang us up and explained that they wanted the boat for VIPs and crew members to sit in whilst filming took place and they could watch it all happening using TV monitors.
“But we were delighted when we realised the boat was in the shot and could be seen as Gary Barlow runs past it.
“It took us eight hours to drive the boat down to Castlefield and we stayed overnight and then filming started at 8am the next say, finishing at 4pm.
“It was interesting to see how the crews filmed the advert and how they used technology to add in the two meerkats as they were going on a scooter as Gary Barlow runs alongside the towpath.
“It is such a funny advert.
“We are really chuffed that a Wigan boat has been involved in this. It is obviously great for our business but is also great for Wigan.
“Everyone in Wigan knows our Kittywake boat and so this such great exposure.
“We were invited to the party afterwards and we chatted to Gary Barlow and he said we should get a picture of us all together, but we never got the chance, which was a shame.”
Kittywake, based at Wigan Pier, offers party services and educational boating trips for youngsters,
For more information, and to view the advert, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Kittywake-Party-Boat-Wigan-Pier/27300064641
And Kittywake was not the only Wigan link, as John Bowdler, organist at Blackpool Tower, helped crews operate the mechanics of the organ when the meerkats were seen playing it during the sponsored links.