Historical Analysis: “Chick Flick” Progressive Commercial

This Progressive commercial combines both traditional and modern advertising techniques. Flo has been the face of Progressive for years as their commercial series has evolved. She uses therapeutic ethos to give the viewer what they are lacking, which in this case is car insurance.  Flo is used to show the consumer that life without Progressive insurance is bad, and that life with Progressive is secure, stable, and safe. This idealized lifestyle appeals to certain market segments, and allows the campaign to be successful.

The buildup of the soundtrack of this commercial adds to the soft sell appeal. It becomes evident that the clip is meant to be a parody of some kind, but the actual brand of Progressive is not clear until the last few sentences of dialogue.  The scene allows the consumer to be distracted by the humorous aspects of this parody, and eases into the brand recognition at the end of the clip.

The informational and transformational functions of this ad series is interesting as well.  On an informational level, this ad shows us a dramatized conversation between a man in distress and a woman who is wearing a Progressive apron.  This ad shows us that a solution is readily available to the man who’s car broke down, and makes it clear that Progressive is available at the customer’s immediate request.  On a transformational level, this ad has the ability to create fear in consumers that did not previously exist.  A television viewer who had no prior concerns about their car or having any issues driving could see this advertisement and immediately feel as if they need to get insurance.  The transformational aspects of this commercial change the subjectivity of the viewer.

On a contextual level, this advertisement fits in to appeal to the typical middle-upper class consumer.  The man is good looking and drives a mid-priced car.  Flo is able to help him solve his problems, and this ad makes it clear that everyone’s problems can be easily fixed by using the advertised service.  This problem-solving soft sell is similar to the Depression Era advertisements that tried to appeal to consumers with a quick, reasonable solution to some sort of problem.  In the same way that the 1900s ads used emotional appeals, so does Progressive.  The effectiveness is clear in that most people who regularly watch television can recognize the Progressive characters on a regular basis.

-Jackie Widmann


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