Flo to Success with Originality


For my final message evaluation, I chose a commercial from the insurance company Progressive that I have always found amusing. The product for the commercial is obviously Progressive’s car insurance. With the popularity of the character Flo, it doesn’t even truly need to be stated that that is the intended purpose. Arguably, the audience for this particular commercial would be women (as the ad itself is titled “Chick Flick”), but truly the audience is most likely anyone in need of insurance that is currently not using Progressive.

Like most Progressive advertisements, this one features the company’s beloved and well-known character Flo, yet she does not appear right at the beginning as she usually does. In fact, the commercial opens up much as a movie would, fading in from black to a long-shot scene where a man stands in the middle of the rain, his car on the side of the road, phone to his ear. He looks desperate and miserable, fitting sad dramatic music playing as an undertone to the rain. “I need you,” he pleads firmly into the receiver. He looks around him, lost, the camera spanning enough to show that it is only him in the road. “I feel so alone,” he adds softer, looking down, the music getting a little louder as the camera circles around him. After a breath, the camera reveals Flo standing a few feet away, unseen by the other, a phone to her own ear, as drenched from the rain as the man is. “But you’re not alone,” she calls out softly in protest, and the man turns, the phone falling from his ear, forlorn expression lightening. “I knew you’d come,” he says as Flo approaches him, a smile forming on her face. “Like I could stay away?” she demands, and the man waves his hand towards the car. “You know I can’t do this without you.”

They’re inches from each other and she breathes out, “You’ll never have to”, the dramatic music picking up in romantic-movie flourish. He gives her a weak smile, “You’re always there for me”, and she hushes him with a finger to his lips, the music building up – and then suddenly she beams and blurts out “I’ll get you a rental car!” The music stops and the movie atmosphere disappears as the man nods, looking up at the sky with a dry shrug. “I could also use an umbrella.” Information about Progressive appears at the bottom of the screen as the two characters talk, and the scene fades away to a black screen reminiscent of a movie preview and rating title, the music returning as the announcer says “Fall in love with Progressive claims service”.

                This advertisement could be considered an “anti-ad”, or more precisely, a “pseudo non-ad”, which according to the text is an advertisement that attempts to conceal or down-play the fact that it is an advertisement. Now in class we presented these types of advertisements as an “on the scene, happening in real life” concept, much like an on-the-spot interview, which the text supports. Here some would argue that this commercial is not a pseudo non-ad, because pretty much everyone knows that Flo is a character in Progressive commercials. However, the text also mentions that Nikon’s camera commercials featuring Ashton Kutcher are also pseudo non-ad commercials.  Now, Ashton Kutcher is well-known (though not as well-known as Flo) for being the face of Nikon’s camera commercials, yet those commercials still count. Again, another argument could be made that the Nikon commercials count because the emulate Ashton going out into real life, but this Progressive commercial would not count because it doesn’t present real life so much as it does a movie. However, the definition of a pseudo non-ad simply says “an advertisement that attempts to downplay or conceal that it is an advertisement by mimicking the codes and conventions associated with non-advertising forms”. Real-life scenarios are just one approach to making a pseudo non-ad; there can be others. Though movies have ad-placement, they are not viewed as advertising forms by the average viewer, which makes this commercial, by presenting itself in a movie form, fit into the pseudo non-ad category.

Overall, I feel that this is an effective advertisement for Progressive. However, this is mostly because of the base Progressive has already built up within its advertising structure. Viewers familiar with Progressive and the character Flo would find the commercial amusing and original – an interesting and different take on their normal (also pseudo non-ad) advertisements. For those familiar viewers who do not already use Progressive, this new creative type of commercial could be what it takes to convince them that the Progressive company is something new, hip, fun, and confident – a worthy risk for their money and investment. However, if this commercial were to have been presented on its own, without the buildup of the advertisement line and to an audience who didn’t have a clue what Progressive even offered, it would still be interesting because of its difference, but essentially ineffective. Remember, the commercial did not proclaim that it was for car insurance – it was implied.

However, in the end this commercial is a commercial within a line of advertisements, aimed towards an audience who would already be at least familiar with the product and its characters. It blocks itself from being an obvious (and annoying and easily dismissed) advertisement by being a pseudo non-ad, which viewers would appreciate, and using a different style than the other commercials by presenting itself as a small movie, which viewers would admire. Therefore, in regards to these, this commercial serves as an effective advertisement for Progressive and its insurance.

-Britney Carter

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