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Flo the “Progressive Insurance Lady” has become a star

The Daily Beast – Nicole LaPorte – Re-posted from 2010 on Sept 17, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Stephanie Courtney as Flo in a Progressive Insurance commercial, as Marge on Season 1 of “Mad Men” and as herself.

The Most Annoying (or Beloved) Pitch Woman on TV Stephanie Courtney—a.k.a., The Progressive Insurance Lady—would like to set the record straight: She is not pregnant.

“They put me in a very starched apron, and I’m a curvy lady, and, so, when the starched apron gets tied…” Courtney said one recent afternoon, explaining the misunderstanding that has arisen over Flo, the über-cheery and quirky sales clerk she plays in the ubiquitous commercials for Progressive Insurance.

Flo fans were apparently so alarmed at the sight of Courtney’s tiny bulge that they wrote letters to Progressive, inquiring whether she was with child.

Courtney said her favorite Flo spot is the one with the “guy with the man bag.”

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.”

But whether you love her or hate her, you can’t ignore her. In the two years since Flo debuted as the unflappably happy sales clerk who presides over the gleaming, white-bright store that sells insurance in handy, easy-to-transport boxes—giving the impression that shopping for insurance is as simple and unfraught as a trip to Ikea—she has become the most recognizable mascot on television, the successor to the Geico gecko, Juan Valdez, and the Pillsbury dough boy.

Like those icons, she’s caught on for a reason. 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.

“She gives us a break from the day-to-day news—and there’s not a lot of good news out there,” said Bill Cowen, the PR program director at Villanova University. “Anything that gives us a moment to make us laugh, make us smile… That really resonates.

“I think we attach ourselves to her, to characters like that, whether it’s characters in an ad or characters in a sitcom.”

The first time that Courtney, who in her non-Flo life is a standup comedian and member of The Groundlings, the fabled comedy group in Los Angeles, noticed the character was catching on was when she saw a surge of Flo Halloween costumes on Facebook.

“It’s a pretty cheap costume to make—all you need is a white polo shirt, white jeans, blue Chuck Taylors, and a white apron,” Courtney said recently, sipping a soy latte at a coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard. “And then you just have to do your hair and makeup like that, and Progressive even makes—you can download your own name-tag and cut it out on paper. So it’s a nice, non-slutty Halloween costume.”

In person, Courtney does not scream “Flo.” Without the poof (which she credits to an hour-long ritual of “back-combing and back-teasing”) and the vampy make-up—not to mention the high-pitched, sing-songy voice—she looks like just another pretty thirtysomething, killing time in between auditions on a weekday afternoon. Dressed in a slim-fitting, gray baseball shirt, stylish jeans, and big-framed sunglasses pushed up on her head, no one at the coffee shop gave her more than a passing glance.

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Commercial of Stephanie and co-worker from 2013

 

 

Video Source:  www.youtube.com

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flo
Flo from Progressive Insurance.jpg

Flo, as portrayed by actress Stephanie Courtney
First appearance 2008
Created by Arnold Worldwide
Portrayed by Stephanie Courtney
Company Progressive Insurance
Information
Aliases The Progressive Girl
Gender Female
Occupation Insurance salesperson
Nationality American

Flo is a fictional character appearing in more than 50 commercials for Progressive Insurance, beginning in 2008. Portrayed by actress and comedian Stephanie Courtney, the character has developed a fan base on social networks and has become an iconic advertising figure.

 

Broadcast history

“Flo,” an upbeat store employee for Progressive Insurance, was created by the Boston-based agency Arnold Worldwide,[1] specifically copywriter John Park and art director Steve Reepmeyer.[2] She is played by actress and comedian Stephanie Courtney, and the character has a fan base on social networks.[3][4][5]

The character debuted in 2008 through television commercials and has since appeared in radio and print advertisements and web banners. As of November 2010, she had appeared in 53 commercials.[dated info][6]

In 2011, Progressive introduced an Australian counterpart to Flo, named Kitty,[7] played by Australian actress Holly Austin.[citation needed]

Characterization

Flo is a cashier and is recognizable by her extremely enthusiastic, upbeat persona, heavy makeup, and retro hairstyle. According to Courtney, it takes one hour to prepare Flo’s hair and another to apply her make-up.[8] A December 15, 2008 article in Advertising Age described Flo as “a weirdly sincere, post-modern Josephine the Plumber who just really wants to help. She has: the brand is flourishing.”[9]

Popularity

In October 2009, the Boston Herald referred to Flo as “the commercial break’s new sweetheart” and said Courtney was “attaining TV ad icon status”. The same article also reported that she was the subject of a popular Halloween costume. At that time, a Facebook page called “Flo, The Progressive Girl” had garnered a little over one million fans. In August 2012, the Facebook page had more than 4.4 million fans. Multiple websites were dedicated to her, and she was popular on Twitter and various Internet forums.[10]

Flo was added as a downloadable character in the video game ModNation Racers in late 2010, complete with her own Progressive kart.[11][12]

Fan interest notwithstanding, Courtney’s opinion is that the GEICO gecko “puts out more sexual vibes than Flo does.”[13]

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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