TV viewers have gotten to know Progressive Insurance's perky fictional spokesperson, "Flo," since her 2008 commercial debut. But many don't realize she's become a social media juggernaut during the past two years, highlighted by her appearances this month as a branded integration in the Facebook game "The Sims Social" and in an animated YouTube video.
For The Sims Social, an Electronics Arts (EA) game where players develop so-called virtual life skills, Flo appears as an avatar and accomplishes tasks like cooking tacos. During the course of the game, other players can overcome various challenges - or "quests" in the game's terminology - before earning a branded Progressive unicorn ornament.
"Flo loves unicorns," said Susan Rouser, Progressive's social media manager, pointing out the character's references to the mythical beasts in her company's TV spots. "It's the very first branded 'quest' EA has done in the Sims Social game."
The YouTube effort - which includes user-generated interaction - launched Wednesday with a three-minute music video dubbed "The Best Day Ever." J.J. Sedelmaier, the animator behind MTV's "Beavis & Butthead," led the project.
In the video, an animated version of Flo appears with another mainstay brand character, "Jimmy," as they sing and leisurely navigate their way through a fantasy-laden afternoon. Consumers are encouraged to upload photos relating to the "Best Day Ever" theme at a dedicated site and post them to Facebook and Twitter.
The video will be supported by an integrated digital campaign, Rouser said, probably including Facebook ads.
Wanted to clarify that people can upload photos, post on Facebook, and Tweet, but they cannot create their own video
Flo's Facebook Page Dramatically Outgrows Brand's
Progressive doesn't use Flo in social media efforts only because she appears in its TV commercials. The character is a Facebook dynamo, accruing 3.5 million likes/fans. By comparison, the brand's page counts just 43,000 among its Facebook legion.
Rouser said her company schedules specific posts for both pages' audiences, while cross-pollinating promotions and messaging when appropriate. What's more, a fan in Oklahoma - inspired by Progressive's TV spots - founded Flo's page before the brand took the reins in 2010.
"He posted the quips from Flo that he thought were funny," Rouser said. "And he built up a community of his own... It got up to 500,000 fans completely organically before we took it on."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT