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What has five letters, can be played by everyone from toddlers to grandmas, and includes Flo as a free space? The new Super Duper Bingo game rolling out for Super Bowl Sunday from Progressive Insurance, of course. The 79-year-old insurer has created its own smartphone version of the popular pastime for customers watching the Feb. 7 match between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Players can download a board outfitted with illustrations of common offerings in Super Bowl ads—an unexplained explosion, a talking animal or a B-list celebrity, for example. A photo of Flo, the red-lipsticked, white-shirt-wearing character who has been Progressive's spokeswoman for nine years, rounds out each board's free space slot.
"We know that people don't really care that much about insurance during the Super Bowl, but if they're playing along with us, we want to at least be top of their consideration when they are shopping for insurance on Feb. 8 and beyond," said Jeff Charney, who has been chief marketing officer of Mayfield Village, Ohio-based Progressive for over five years. "We're trying to complement the [Super Bowl] experience." He noted that Bingo is a game that has universal appeal in what has become a gamified world.
To put the offering together, Progressive's in-house agency, 96 Octane, researched hundreds of Super Bowl ads from previous years to find 30 frequent themes and a few random items, and it also worked with the University of Maryland on the effort. Arnold Worldwide, which has been Progressive's agency of record since 2006, was a partner. As an advertiser, Progressive makes a habit of buying most of its media in-house.
Opting to market a digital game rather than airing an expensive TV spot—ads are fetching around $5 million—is a cost-effective strategy that Progressive has used before. Last year, the insurer hosted a digital interview with Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, a Flo fan, that was so successful that Progressive ended up airing it in some local markets a few days before the Super Bowl. Progressive, which employs 27,000 worldwide, has not aired a national Super Bowl ad in at least five years, according to Mr. Charney.
He declined to say how much the company is spending on Bingo, but it is on par with previous years. Progressive spent over $572 million on U.S. measured media in 2014, a 2.5% decline over the previous year, according to Ad Age's Datacenter.
Those lucky few who win Progressive's Bingo get more than just bragging rights. One grand-prize winner will receive home mortgage payments and auto payments for a full year. Five first-prize winners will receive car payments for a year, and 20 second-prize winners will get smart thermostats. The game can be downloaded beginning Feb. 4.
"Everybody loves Bingo," said Mr. Charney. "We're the biggest proponents of memory lane marketing and Bingo brings you back."