Flo, the Progressive Auto Insurance lady, is a polarizing figure — and though she might divide a nation, so many are finding her "discount!" hard to shake.
"First she caught our eye; now she's snatched our heart," writes Chris Garcia on Austin360. "Viewers are smitten. They're crushin'. They want to know: Who's that girl?" Her Facebook page has over 500,000 fans. She's thrown out the first pitch at baseball games. She is, says the Boston Herald, "the commercial break's new sweetheart." Writes Nicole LaPorte on The Daily Beast,
Such is the fascination with a character that has stormed into the American consciousness-against the odds of DVRs, iPads, and On Demand-in either the most annoying or endearing way possible. Reactions to Flo on YouTube range from "she's hot" and "I want to f—- flo so bad!!!!" to "FLO PLZ GO AWAY" and "this girl is ugly and annoying and stupid and everything that is wrong with America."
While either extreme seems a bit excessive (and the Flo Halloween costume somewhat dreary) it's no wonder that people have formed opinions: for two years, she's been popping up in our living rooms, endlessly peppy and delighted to be helping equally enthusiastic people choose insurance.
LaPorte's theory is that viewers are cottoning to the cheery character with because she reminds us of a simpler time.
Just as during the Great Depression Betty Crocker was a reassuring reminder of home-cooked meals and the suddenly less attainable comforts in life, Flo is a blast of unironic helpfulness and pleasantries in this age of snark, economic uncertainty, and fractured everything. She's a tangible person and personality in an increasingly virtual world-as real as the shopkeeper you never have to deal with anymore, because you buy everything on Amazon, or the diner waitress who used to serve you a cracked cup of black coffee before you upgraded to double macchiados doled out by a headset-wearing barista.
Why stop there? She's also someone who's absolutely thrilled with a strikingly dull, seemingly thankless job: maybe we want to see workplace happiness? While the Geico gecco climbed the corporate ladder, Flo, with her Kate Pearson makeup and perky hair, seems to be parmanently — and happily — ensconsed on the floor of the Wonka-ish insurance emporium. (Although why people love this, I don't know: there's a really perky, enthusiastic guy who works at a Trader Joe's near me and always says "you went straight for the good stuff!" if you buy chocolate, even if, in fact, you didn't go to that aisle first. This doesn't make me want to shop there.) In real life, is comedian Stephanie Courtney equally happy with her perma-niche? Unclear, although "game" is certainly the word that comes to mind when you read the numerous interviews in which she's asked to talk about "differences" between herself and the character and answer questions about Flo's personal life (she knows neither the character's marital status nor her last name).
I get having strong feelings about commercial characters. I'm reduced to screaming at the TV whenever those Verizon FiOS ads with the sick, clingy mom shows up to "make sure the dude is telling the truth," because in my mind he's trying really hard to get back on his feet and she's undermining him at every turn. Doesn't everyone? But the passion over Flo? Confusing. If any word really comes to mind about her character, it's "unthreatening." She's such a mishmash of various commercial and cultural stereotypes that the shtick feels familiar. At the end of the day, it's still...insurance which, while it's emerged as the new bastion of creative advertising innovation, is still hard to get really excited about. That said, Progressive's numbers are, apparently, way up. And Flo is a star.
Insurance Pitchgirl A Surprise TV Hit [Boston Herald]
The Strange Allure Of The Progressive Insurance Girl [Austin360]
The Most Annoying (or Beloved) Pitch Woman on TV [Daily Beast]
Progressive Insurance Commercial - Flo Craves Tacos In "Back Up" [YouTube]