Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is it time for Flo to go?

Stephanie Courtney's character, "Flo" for Progressive Insurance made the front page of Ad Age this week where Ken Wheaton promotes how she made Progressive Insurance a household name.

In Flo's most recent spot entitled: "Flo's Family" Courtney plays all the characters. Sadly the whole spot falls flat. The jokes aren't jokes. The characters are only costumes and Flo comes across as a tired looking robot spewing nonsensical stuff that supposedly relates to her job.

The only insightful comment Wheaton makes is this:
 "In fact, as a stand-alone ad it almost fails entirely. Sure, it's funny in an Eddie Murphy or Mel Brooks or Martin Lawrence sort of way. But if you were coming to it cold, you'd be hard-pressed to tell me what it's supposed to be selling."

I do not agree it even remotely has any Mel Brooks humor or for that matter, any humor at all.

Then just what is this 30 seconds?

Well I call it a "Flomercial."

And I am predicting this as a thin ice,  dangerous step for both Arnold and Progressive.

Let's look at another spokesperson who really was a household name.

Remember Mr. Whipple???

Created by Benton and Bowles back in the 60's and 70's for P&G's Charmin toilet paper.
The Mr. Whipple campaign lasted for over twenty years.
His job was to "squeeze the Charmin" bathroom tissue and catch others doing the same.
Whipple squeezed enough Charmin to probably wipe the butts of every Northamerican.
And Charmin sold tons of this stuff thanks to Whipple.

The idea of trying to create a memorable benefit from a category so difficult as toilet paper even now boggles my mind. The answer to this was in Whipple being single minded in his message. And Benton and Bowles spent their days and nights concocting twenty years of variations on that one theme.

Here's the fundamental difference between Whipple and Flo:
Whipple represented the brand. Flo has become the brand.

In the spots you can see how P&G and B&B kept a tight reign on Whipple. They never let him get away from them.

But Flo has taken on a life of her own.

You see, there's a fine line between what-triggers-what in the brand vs. ad vs. consumers mind. Also, there's a world of difference between being a symbol for something vs. becoming the symbol. It's a tricky balancing act. It's even stickier when you begin to see which is growing faster...the product itself or the product's representative...in the mind of consumers.

And for this blogger the Flomercial is pointing in a purely speculative direction.

So stay tuned. Is Flo going to get her pink slip and spend more time with her family?

Or has Flo totally hijacked Progressive.