Progressive Insurance mistake

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

19 December 2017

Again. Another Progressive Insurance mistake.

Progressive Insurance MistakeI never really liked the Progressive television campaign. Flo is goofy and too old. And many of the spots are trite. Some will argue with me when I say that the campaign is a tribute to one Progressive Insurance mistake after another.

But they are wrong.

If the campaign was effective, why does Progressive need the immense buy? You can sell anything if you repeat it enough.

Look at the numbers. These guys spend tons on frequency. Brands with an important and memorable message sacrifice reach for frequency.

“The only thing I hate more than Progressive’s Flo is how quick they are to spend dollars. It covers up many branding mistakes. This is just the latest in a long line of wasteful bucks.”

Flo is not the worst of the mistakes

Progressive Insurance MistakeBig ad spends are like makeup. They can cover up a lot of flaws.

Agencies should spend more time trying to figure out the highest emotional intensity in the category. That is the goal.

Own the most important idea that causes a customer to switch. Execute that idea. Leave the rest to tactics.

It is impossible to get a prospect to switch without awareness.

But don’t confuse awareness with importance or emotional intensity.

Look at this Progressive ad

At least we are not watching a soft lens hiding the fact that Flo is 85 years old.

See if you can spot the Progressive Insurance mistake in it.


Easy to spot mistakes

Jamie another Progressive Insurance MistakeDo you like the ad? Let’s pretend, just for argument sakes, that you do. Are you enjoying the characters?

You may even find the over-the-top push at humor amusing. Go figure?

But, I have a REAL problem with the message. (Read about insurance branding here.)

Progressive Insurance and the agency that created it miss the issue.

What is the main message?

Progressive Insurance IS expert at comparisons. That’s the big take-away.

It is not the highest emotional intensity (the campaign lacks that entirely).

But play along with me now.

Jamie is part of Progressive. He represents Progressive Insurance. And he literally represents them. He is the main character in this commercial. He is the face of Progressive.

So, Jamie represents the value Progressive attempts to own. Expertise.

Progressive Insurance, if we believe the strategy, is expert at comparisons.

No. Not Jamie

Progressive Insurance MistakeBut a symbol of Progressive is not an expert. He is blind.

And stupid (even if his goofiness is likable). The meta message here is clear. Progressive does NOT understand comparisons.

In fact, it sucks at it.

Why does this matter?

Because it represents misunderstanding the brand. Progressive is color blind to brand equities.

Shit happens. Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who said, “Power creates shit and absolute power is absolutely shit” (or something along those lines)?

Is it another fatal Progressive Insurance mistake?

Progressive Insurance MistakeNo. Not at all. We are forgetting that Progressive has almost unlimited budgets.

With enough money, you can even sell Sunny Delight. (Insurance marketing gets it wrong quite often.)

Spend on Progressive. Follow the Aflac Duck and the GEICO Gecko.

The Answer is SPEND MORE (and vote often).


  1. Kimberly Kranick

    Why is the tool room ad funny? Ignoring people, really treating him like crap? Not funny! Hate that commercial and will not even consider progressive for alienating someone. Been there, sucks!!!

    • Rolo Tomossi

      I’m with you Kimberly. They are trying to display hatefulness and alienate Jamie. It’s like since he obviously doesn’t fit the model of an American male or at least doesn’t seem like an American male from the 80’s that we should pick on him. I realize that men between 18-34 are weak and emotionally unstable but it still doesn’t make it right to pick on their lack of masculinity.

      • Sally

        Me three.These are mean spirited commercials. Why hate on Jamie? The snotty girl has got to go and Progressive needs to start displaying some semblance of human decency.

  2. Sauro Camiletti

    Progressive commercials are juvenile. The message is confused, the content is aimed at 6 year olds (who by the way don’t buy insurance) and the characters look like fugitives from a psych ward with Flo as their nurse. One word summarizes these commercials – nonsense.

    Why would I buy anything from a company that annoys me and that exercises such poor judgment.

    Have a look at the Farmers commercials. At least we know what those folks provide coverage for.

  3. Michael Anthony

    Who plays Jamie in the Progressive ads?

    • Scott May

      That would be Jim Cashman. Check out his smoking hot wife.

  4. Joan

    I absolutely HATE the Progressive commercials – so annoying -they make NO sense! Every time one of their commercials come on, I either change the channel or mute the sound! Flo needs to go & so does Jamie!Bad marketing!

    • Kenny

      I agree. They would be better off lowering the premiums in getting more customers. Just love my DVR where I can fast forward through them.

      • Earl

        What DVR do you use? My first Tivo lasted 2 1/4 years. The replacement Tivo lasted three months! The one from the cable company is failing in under two weeks!

  5. Randy

    This is a very well written column.

  6. Darren Bigsby

    What really baffles me, is why anyone would want insurance from a company that portrays themselves as idiots? What kind of customers are they trying to attract? Every single commercial they make has incompetent characters playing stupid roles, with no idea what they are doing. I should expect to see a babbling, thumb sucking, illiterate lump sitting behind a desk when I visit their office. Not me. I want intellegent people for an insurance company. A company that doesn’t believe their client base should have a very ignorant sense of humor.
    As to address the ‘Jamie’ question; a better question would be why the writers feel the need to paint Jamie as a baffoon.

  7. Lee Dicus

    Jamie makes me sick. Especially the commercial where he is teaching a group how to sing. I love Flo, but Jamie has to go. I mute the sound whenever that ad comes on.


    There are many annoying ads..Progressive is at the top of the list. As soon as I hear one on radio or see one on TV, I either mute it or turn the channel. Sometimes I come back, sometimes not. I miss many shows or programs..but will not subject my brain to such trash. Would you breathe in cigarette smoke? Exposing your brain to such junk is the same to me.

  9. Jeff Celcker

    The next time I see the guy with the blue Members Only jacket I will switch my insurance to another company. Ive been forced to change channels each time Tom shows up talking BS. And someone needs to break that phony air guitar over his head.

  10. Cindy

    Is it me or is the retail sticky tape on the back of Jamie’s jeans suppose to be part of commercial? Goofy 😋



    • Jim Laliberte

      Exactly. And they should know better, but they don’t. Having such moronic ads tells me the management is clueless.

      I would NEVER deal with them either.

    • Andrew Mckinnon

      I agree too. I would never buy insurance from Progressive because of their stupid f**king commercials.

  12. Wen

    I don’t feel the Jamie and Flo characters in the Progressive commercials deserve the bashing they’re getting. I definitely think it’s more about the need for much better writing!
    They need to hire a group of writers that are better bonded in the brand and what they are trying to achieve in projecting the values of this company and product.
    Try injecting a few serious commercials into the mix. They don’t all have to be goofy!
    The consumer gets really annoyed at having their intelligence questioned all the time! At least Jamie and Flo are upbeat, the only character I would lose is the “sister, Janice”.
    She is the ‘nails on a blackboard moment’ in the Progressive universe.
    I hope this one opinion helps…
    GOOD LUCK!!!
    Wen in AZ

  13. Jim Laliberte

    Moronic ads like Progressive’s make me laugh at how dumbed down “the creatives” have become today.

    I am about to launch a marketing consulting company due to stupid ads like this and most from the Super Bowl, which get more pathetic each year.

    My one concern is that I fear many of these companies have relatively young management calling the shots. Over educated and lacking real experience, they make dumb decisions. The business world is not what it used to be.


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