Is Flo advertising's newest sex symbol?
OK, so that might be a stretch for someone whose main task is to sell insurance, of all things. But Progressive is pushing boundaries with its perky sales-clerk character. The marketer is releasing an online video this week featuring an animated Flo on a daylong date. Her love interest -- at least for the day -- is a guy named Jimmy, who is meant to represent all those regular guys out there who apparently have a thing for Flo.
"We know that guys do crush on her," said Jeff Charney, Progressive 's chief marketing officer. "And rather than shy away from it, we took it on."
The video, called "The Best Day Ever," is more innocent than steamy, bordering on the absurd. Flo and Jimmy frolic, fish, ride ATVs, chase butterflies and chop down trees. At one point they lock into an embrace that , by the magic of animation, evolves into what can only be described as a spinning cyclone until Flo takes a quick break to do her nails. By the end they are wearing each other's clothes. (It's hard to explain, just watch it.)
The video was created by agency of record Arnold Worldwide, Boston, with an assist from animation studio J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, whose credits include "Beavis & Butt-Head," The "Funhouse" cartoons on "Saturday Night Live" and a bunch of commercial work. Progressive plans to post the video on the brand's Facebook page and plug it in digital media buys. A microsite, flosbestday.com, will include insurance quotes.
The ad is an outgrowth of a TV spot aimed at selling Progressive 's outdoors products, such as boat, ATV, RV and snowmobile insurance. During production of that spot, the actor who plays Jimmy (Jimmy Callahan) made up the "Best Day" song as he riffed on his guitar during downtime. Flo (played by Stephanie Courtney) joined in. Progressive marketers liked the tune so much, they made it the soundtrack for the ad, shelving plans to pay top dollar for a licensed song, Mr. Charney said. Flo even sings part of the song.
The online video -- which also features the song -- is just one more example of an insurer pushing the creative envelope in a hyper-competitive category filled with big spenders such as Geico, State Farm and Allstate. The goal is to grab the attention of consumers who would rather not think about insurance.
"If we can capture your interest ... that gives us an opportunity to continue to build that relationship with you until that day when you do have to make a decision to buy insurance. And then we can be top-of -mind," said Jon Beamer, who oversees digital content for Progressive .
But what about Flo -- is she off the dating market? And what is she doing outside of her insurance store? Mr. Beamer said her trysts with Jimmy are nothing more than Jimmy's fantasies. "I think she's definitely still available," he said.