Progessive’s Flo Meets First Celebrity

Michael Buffer helps sell bundled insurance

Flo broke Michael Buffer's spleen.

At least, that's the punch line in Progressive Insurance's newest—and 89th—TV commercial featuring its characteristically peppy spokeswoman, Flo. Launched Monday, the ad is also the first in the Flo series to incorporate a live celebrity (of sorts). In the spot, Buffer, the boxing announcer, performs an insurance-themed version on his famously-drawn out slogan, "Let's get ready to rumble." 

The twist: "Let's get ready to bundle."

Bundling is the practice of buying both auto and home coverage from the same provider. Insurers say such package deals save consumers money, though some consumer advocates contend that's not always the case. 

It's a familiar point of focus for Progressive's advertising, which has in the past relied on off-beat concepts like combining a cat and a rocket ship to sell consumers on its bundled offering. 

Now, the company's executives hope the emphasis Buffer's bit places on the word "bundle" itself will help it capture a greater share of the bundling market. "It's a pretty big category," said Jeff Charney, Progressive's chief marketing officer. "If you want to own the category, you have to own the catchphrase."  

"[Buffer is] one of these guys that people like to have a little bit of fun with," added Charney. "And we're having fun with him the way the consumer would like to have fun with him."

Charney also hopes the length of the word will grab listeners' attention, even if they're not in the same room as the TV when the ad runs. "'Let's get ready to bundle,' for that many seconds—you hear that, if you are in the kitchen doing something, this will stop you."

In addition to the new ad, the insurer has four more spots in development around Flo, who it plans to keep using indefinitely. Created by Progressive's lead creative agency, Arnold Worldwide, Flo was first introduced in 2008. In 2010, the brand expanded its cast of characters with a male counterpart, "The Messenger," and last year Flo weathered a social media firestorm around the company's handling of a claim in which the policyholder was killed.

The idea going forward, Charney said, is to treat Flo's campaign like a sitcom, continuing to develop the character—and possibly inviting other celebrities to meet her. (In addition to Buffer, one previous ad in the series featured Sonic the Hedgehog, and a recent spot saw the brand's anthropomorphized product, a cartoon of a talking box, voiced by Saturday Night Live alum Chris Parnell.)

"She's at the top of her game right now, [and] we want to keep her at the top of the game," he explained. "If you have this philosophy that we have—almost like a network philosophy—as long as she continues to be relevant, she can run a long time. And that's our intent."

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.