Comic-Strip Whippersnapper Considers Progressive's Flo a 'Cougar'

Can Dustin's Crush Outweigh His Sister's Ageism?

By Published on .

Here's a new wrinkle in Progressive 's ever-popular "Flo" ad campaign: A member of the demographic most coveted by marketers thinks she's a little old.

We don't know much about Dustin Kudlick, the perennially under- or unemployed 23-year-old who inhabits a relatively young comic that sports his first name as its title. He's only been on the comics page since early 2010, and we're not as familiar with his moods and habits as we are with, say, those of Mark Trail or Dagwood Bumstead. But we do wonder if Progressive and the ad agency that crafted the company's now long-running ad blitz with central character Flo -- that 's Havas' Arnold Worldwide -- ought to stop and take pause.

All week long, Dustin has been drooling over Flo. But not because he sees her as an attainable mate (on Monday, he praised her "retro hairdo, that apple-red lipstick, and those thick lashes ... I mean, whoa!"). Today, we discover that it's Flo's mature status that has Dustin a little, well, excited (just look at him drool hypnotically in the third panel of today's strip). We're a little surprised to discover, according to Dustin's sister, that Flo is "16 years older" than our lazy friend. So if Dustin is 23, that would make Flo -- 38?

We never thought Flo had hit Progressive 's imaginary showrooms straight out of high school, mind you, but we long believed -- perhaps it's her bubbly personality, the bump-it lift of her hair, the odd rise-and-fall cadence of her sweet musical voice? -- that she was youthful and spry. Not to say that 38-year-old insurance ad character still doesn't have some livin' to do, but, well, there's a reason people in their late 30s start to think about having kids.

Yet Dustin's sister Meg clearly sees Flo as getting ready for dentures, perhaps even gearing up for a trip to The Scooter Store. If you're Arnold and Progressive , what do you do? Meg may have no money now, but she's a member of the 18-to-34 demographic advertisers spend millions each year to attract and satisfy.

You might ignore the whole kerfuffle. "Dustin" is no "Peanuts." Hell, it's not even "Curtis."

We at Adages suggest that be done at Progressive 's peril. It's only a matter of time before Meg Kudlick starts to text, tweet and post her thoughts in any number of digital venues, which means you can count on their views being shared by like-minded funny-pages teens. Sure, you can ignore Meg, but can you whitewash negative impressions generated by Chip Flagston from "Hi & Lois"? Jeremy Duncan from "Zits"? Luann DeGroot and her many pals? Young Rusty from "Mark Trail"? Francis and Marylou from "Momma"?

And what happens when the kids from "Family Circus" and "Dennis the Menace" take up the cause? Sure, they look little, but they've been around for decades and can certainly take their hefty salaries -- bumped up over the decades by intense negotiations sparked by Jeffy, Dolly and the rest and their high-paid attorneys -- and give them instead to AllState or Geico.

The time may have come for Flo to get a little Botox. Or at least spend some time courting the comics.

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