Flo the Progressive Girl. What comes to mind when I mention this media phenomenon? You hate her, right? Or maybe you love her. I checked the web, and there are literally dozens of websites dedicated to either stance although, at quick glance, there seem to be more haters than lovers. Then again, the haters are sometimes just so ticked off that they are more outspoken in their dislike. Words like nauseating, disgusting and stupid abound. She makes women look silly; she dresses like a freak, and her makeup is frightening—so say those who can’t stand her. Fans say she’s hot, weirdly sexy and a “babe.” They love her humor and her look.
Call me crazy, but don’t you think it’s a little weird for people to have such a visceral approach to a fictional character? A marketing persona? More importantly, though, this celebrity status has given her notoriety as Flo the Progressive Girl. Hmm, I’m thinking there are some advertising execs who will get a huge bonus this year. That kind of attention and name recognition is the holy grail of advertising. Thanks, all you passionate fans.
Personally, I love Flo. She’s perky but not over the top. She’s not a Hollywood glam chick—20s, blonde and stick-thin. She’s entertaining because she’s a little sassy, a little snide, a little irreverent and her facial expressions are just perfect. The look is quirky enough that we all react to it (the advertiser’s goal, remember). That hairdo! It’s a cross between a bad case of bed-head and Marlo Thomas, That Girl with a headband. The Amy Winehouse cat-eye mascara and the red lips round out a uniquely bizarre look, one that belongs only to Flo the Progressive Girl. Her delivery is that of a seasoned comic and peppered with her own style. Apparently, the actress who plays Flo is encouraged to improvise when taping. I don’t know if she coined “tricked-out nametag” herself or if it was written for her. Either way, it has become cult vernacular, specifically and instantly attached to this ad campaign. All this, however, plays out as Flo attempts to illustrate the merits of Progressive insurance, a message that is not overshadowed by Flo, only highlighted. See why the big bonuses are coming?
Stephanie Courtney plays Flo. She is, in fact, a seasoned actress who has appeared in television and movies. She is a senior member of the Los Angeles improv group the Groundlings. And she’s not Flo. She admits that Flo’s personality comes from her own but only at the extreme limit of silliness. So, come on, you Flo freaks out there, whether you love her or hate her, for God’s sake, please remember that she’s only a fictional character. From Progressive’s perspective, love her or hate her, just keep on remembering her.