ANA Annual Meeting 2015

Take Progressive CMO's Marketing Pop Quiz

Man Behind Flo Introduces 'Individual Content Quotient' at ANA Meeting

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Jeff Charney speaks at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference
Jeff Charney speaks at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference Credit: ANA

Don Draper is dead -- true or false? According to Progressive Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Charney, the answer is true because the notion of a traditional "ad guy" is over.

"You've got to be a full-service marketer," Mr. Charney said Wednesday morning in a presentation of the Association of National Advertisers annual "Masters of Marketing" conference in Orlando, Fla.

But Mr. Charney -- who manages the insurer's litany of Flo ads -- told the 2,800 marketing professionals at the event that "Don Draper's creative spirit will always, always live on." Because in Don Draper's time and "in our time right now, you better out-create" because "you are never going to outspend," he said.

The Draper question was part of a pop quiz Mr. Charney gave to the ANA attendees that he described as an ICQ test -- or individual content quotient. Here are few of the other true-or-false questions:

The best marketers follow the latest trends

False, Mr. Charney said, because "you are marketers -- never follow, lead." As an example, he offered up a recent Flo ad that is a retro spoof on after-school specials and led to the phrase "sprinkles are for winners" getting spread in popular culture, including as a lyric in a Lil Wayne song.

Can you run a marketing operation like a Hollywood studio?

True, he said. Mr. Charney runs Progressive's marketing department like a TV network, using Flo as the star character and surrounding her with supporting actors and spin-offs. The strategy is meant to use ads as storytelling, he said, adding that "fresh content works."

Demographic data is the best way to understand audience

False, Mr. Charney said, because it is the insight behind the data that is most important. He profiled two people in his own marketing department -- a younger man and an older man, pointing out that each one did not fit the stereotype associated with his generation. The younger guy, for instance, still reads the Wall Street Journal printed version and checks his Roth IRA religiously. The age-doesn't-matter insight informed a Progressive ad character called "Baby Man."

As a CMO you should get fired every 18 months

True, he said, although he meant it symbol for taking the time every so often to reinvent yourself. It is about challenging yourself to "push harder and smarter," he said. "I have replaced myself and also learned from myself."

Disruption is so last year

False, because "disruption is alive and well in marketing," he said. As an example, he showed a recent spot called "FloBron" starring Flo and NBA star LeBron James. "If you don't disrupt you are wasting your money. You've got to get things with edge out there," he said.

To close, Mr. Charney tried a little disruption of his own by calling three people on stage to lip synch the Wilson Phillips song, "Hold On," which was featured in a recent Progressive ad. He then called on the crowd to get on their feet -- and most people did, somewhat awkwardly, proving that they might be "masters of marketing" but they are not pop stars.

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