Progressive Insurance Gets Flo Going with Women Followers

Last week, Compete launched Ad Impact, a new offering that measures the effectiveness of online advertising. We decided to take Ad Impact for a test drive and what better place to start than with an online ad for auto insurance.

You may recognize the character above from Progressive‘s peppy TV commercials. The character’s name is Flo and it turns out she has something of a cult following.

Flo has her own unofficial fan site and Wikipedia entry. "The strange allure of the Progressive insurance girl", as Austin360.com put it, even has Ad Age’s Bob Garfield saying she "is a weirdly sincere, post-modern Josephine the Plumber who just really wants to help."

On June 15, Flo received premier placement on the MSN homepage, generating significant insurance shopper interest for Progressive.

Using Compete’s Ad Impact, we know that MSN homepage visitors who saw Flo’s banner ad were twice as likely to visit Progressive.com and 2.4X as likely to search using the term "Progressive" in the week after seeing her ad.

As one would expect, Ad Impact often shows lifts in viewthrough to the advertiser’s site and in brand searches from ad exposed individuals. But who are these individuals responding to Progressive Flo and what can we learn about advertising from them?

Ad Impact shows that females, ages 25 — 44 that earn $30— 60k were more likely than other demographic buckets to visit Progressive.com after seeing Flo’s ad.

A bit of internet sleuthing suggests that Flo herself fits this profile. Her MySpace page says she is 39 and I’d bet that blisteringly well-lit abstraction, the Progressive store, pays her a retail salary between $30 — 60k.

So while blogger Tim Nudd at AdFreak admits that "Dudes have a thing for Flo", it’s really women that are demographically similar to Flo that respond to her ads, at least on MSN.

I’m not sure if Progressive was targeting women like Flo when their ad agency created her, but I’d suspect they are pleased with the results — a broadly appealing character that has won cult-like attention from men and women alike and a core constituency of women that identify with her persona.