Working Remote Is Going About as Well for Progressive’s Flo and Co. as It Is for You

Arnold, the brand's in-house team and the talent turned to iPhones and improv for new campaign from quarantine

Progressive's fictional employees aren't getting a break from advertising in quarantine. Progressive
Headshot of Doug Zanger

On the whole, we’re starting to see the possibilities of what creative made in quarantine can look like. A few weeks ago, many agencies and brands held on to the sides of the boat, merely trying to navigate the rough waters of keeping work moving forward. The results were expectedly mixed, but this isn’t necessarily a time to be grousing about “the craft.” There will be plenty of time for that later.
However, Progressive and its longtime agency Arnold appear to have found a decent balance in addressing today’s new reality and some much-needed levity. Framed around—and appropriately titled—“Work From Home,” a series of three ads brings the brand’s core ad crew together in scenarios people are ruefully getting used to.
The best of the bunch is the one focused on video call tech issues. That’s likely the most common theme people working from home experience. It’s also the scenario that feels tailor-made for the actors’ improv chops, especially the brand’s hero, Flo (it would have been fun to see the outtakes on this one).

Since introducing Flo, played by Stephanie Courtney, in 2008, Progressive has gradually introduced more characters into what the brand calls her “Superstore” universe. Progressive CMO Jeff Charney has described his strategy for balancing multiple character-rich campaigns as being like a TV network with a wide swath of different programs.
“We’re always pushing for first-mover advantage, and we succeeded by becoming the first ‘commercial’ improv cast to appear in a virtual video setting,” said Charney. “It’s a statement on the relevance of our Superstore cast, who’s 11 years young, and the ‘funny because it’s true’ situations that are top of mind right now. It’s the right content for the right context as many are entering the seventh week of working from home.”
Another spot features some customer-service role playing, while the third centers on the Aubrey Plaza-like Mara character, who lives the modern nightmare of being honest while unmuted.

The campaign is one of the first to put well-known ad characters directly into the quarantine era, and it does so in a way that’s clever, reasonably funny and yet still respectful of the national mood. It doesn’t make light of quarantine or social distancing so much as simply acknowledge the reality we’re all living and often working in.

The campaign’s production clearly required a new approach, given the severe limitations of quarantine. The actors used iPhones and their improv backgrounds to generate a wide range of content from home.
“Hollywood is essentially closed, and we had to adjust quickly. It ushers in a new production paradigm that we’re all facing now, and shows the existing production model must evolve with the times,” said Charney. “In a day’s work, these improv characters were able to capture three work-from-home spots, as well as half a dozen social and digital content assets. Our teams worked together to do in 48 hours what normally would take two weeks.”
“Tech Issues”
Agency: Arnold
Chief Creative Officer: Sean McBride
SVP, Creative Directors: Nate Donabed, Josh Kahn
CD, Art Director: Thomas Hair
ACD, Copywriter: Zac Milner
SVP, Executive Producer: Mike Lawson
Production Assistant: Danielle Balanov
Business Affairs: Danielle Ivicic
Planners: Catherine Sheehan, Kylee Donovan
Project Manager: Eric Rubino
Marketing: Val Bettini, Caroline Kozub
Production Company: Station Film
Director: Brendan Gibbons
Line Producer: Julie Lee
Partners, Executive Producers: Caroline Gibney, Steven Orent
Edit, Color, Mix and Finishing:
Agency: Union Editorial
Partner, Editor: Merritt Duff
Colorist: Alex Bickel
Sound Engineer: Milos Zivkovic
Lead Flame Artist: Jason Ortenberg
Producer, Motion GFX and Finishing: Tim Veirling
Senior Producer: Susan Motamed
Executive Producer: Melissa Lubin
Managing Director, Partner: Caryn Maclean

Join the foremost brand marketers, such as Marc Pritchard, Brad Hiranaga, Kory Marchisotto and more, for Brandweek Masters Live on Sept. 14-17. Secure your pass and learn from the brand masters.

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.