Progressive CMO Jeff Charney announces retirement
One of the industry’s most high-profile marketing jobs is open after more than a decade. Jeff Charney, who has worked as the chief marketing officer of Progressive Insurance since 2010, plans to retire in January of 2022, he announced today.
He noted that the timing feels right following a year of upheaval.
"Our proven Marketing team has weathered countless challenges over the past decade, however, seeing how effective they were in navigating through the world's largest crisis—COVID-19—makes me even more confident in the timing of my decision,” Charney said in a statement. “I love this brand and am so proud of my team, the marketing characters we've all created, and the true character of the Progressive culture that I've been so fortunate to be a part of.”
A search team, including Charney, Progressive President and CEO Tricia Griffith and Chief Human Resource Officer Lori Niederst, will look for the brand’s new CMO.
The new CMO, however, will have some Flo-sized shoes to fill. One of Ad Age’s Creativity 50 in 2012, Charney is known for helping characters such as white-coated, red-lipstick-wearing Flo, and her sidekick Jamie, gain mass appeal while promoting the insurer’s low prices. He sometimes would pair such spokespeople with other well-known entities, like the Kool-Aid man, in what he called “memory lane marketing” to tap into consumers’ nostalgia.
Yet like other insurers, Charney would also run dual narratives—including a Flo-less campaign, a cautionary tale focusing on how homeowners can become like their parents and how to avoid such a future. Both campaigns are currently running on streaming services.
In addition, Charney helped advance the internal agency model, which has grown to be a favorite across brands looking for more control and flexibility to react to current events. In 2018, he spoke at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing event about the topic by offering advice to other brands trying to go in-house. Progressive’s internal shop, Ninety6, first launched one year into his tenure in 2011.
One of Ad Age’s Leading National Advertisers, Progressive spent $1.8 billion on advertising in 2019, a 30% rise over 2018, according to Ad Age Datacenter.