Progressive is an American insurance company known for their television commercials, which often star an enthusiastic, quirky saleswoman named Flo (played by Groundlings alumna Stephanie Courtney) and her group of friends, who all like to explain the benefits of Progressive's insurance and the products it comes with, such as the Name Your Price tool. Besides Flo, there are several other recurring characters, most notably Jamie, Flo's well-meaning but incompetent assisstant, Mara, a sarcastic employee who is uninterested in her job, Alan, and Flo's family, who are all annoyed at her constant mentions of Progressive and its insurance policies.
Not all of Progressive's commercials feature Flo and her friends; there have been other characters featured in these ads, too. For example, in 2012, they introduced an anthropomorphic Auto Insurance Box (voiced by Chris Parnell) representing the company's products as another mascot. There's also the Sign Spinner ads, which focus on a Progressive sign spinner and the various everyday situations he gets into. In 2020, they introduced their "Dr. Rick" campaign, focusing on a "Parenta-Life Coach" named Dr. Rick who prevents new homeowners from becoming their parents, and the various methods he uses to do so. Flo is their most well-known and most often used mascot, however.
Progressive's commercials provide examples of the following tropes:
- The Ace: Jamie. He's married to a model, lives in a mansion, can play Spanish guitar and sing beautifully, dance ballet good enough to be the lead danseur, knows how to dogsled, is a tattoo artist and lawyer (only licensed in Sweden), won a Japanese game show, fights Muay Thai professionally, won a soccer championship, and is a DJ and horse breeder. And that's just from two commercials. He also has an animated superhero alter ego named "Big Jim" who is taller than a house, has rippling muscles, and the ability to take on a tornado singlehandedly.
- Animate Inanimate Object: The Auto Insurance Box character introduced in 2012 is an anthropomorphic version of the Progressive insurance boxes that are seen in the aisles of the Progressive store in Flo's ads.
- Annoying Laugh: Progressive employee Mara claims she has one to fend off some guys who hit on her while she's at a bar.
- Audience Surrogate: In a commercial, Flo and her colleague Rodney have just finished selling homeowners' insurance to a woman, who expects for something wacky to happen like most viewers are. Flo explains to her that they're taking a break from that since it's been a stressful year for everyone, not that it stops three-fifths of *NSYNC to show up, much to Flo and Rodney's annoyance.
- Breakout Character: Jamie, Flo's assistant, got so popular that he has many ads focused on him (sometimes solely).
- Brutal Honesty: Dr. Rick, who is often quite blunt with how he attempts to help his patients, whether it be saying that no one cares how early you wake up in the morning or about your interest in mulch, snatching a woman's "no fussing, no cussing" sign and throwing it in the trash, or physically stopping a man from trying to help someone who didn't ask for it.
- Burn the Witch!: In one ad, one of Flo's ancestors is about to be burned at a stake when she's accused of witchcraft trying to sell the Name Your Price tool.
- Busman's Holiday: One commercial has the gang of sales reps at the beach, promising to not talk about insurance. Then two other beachgoers talk about their own insurance issues, and Flo cracks within seconds and rushes over to help.
- Butt-Monkey: Jamie receives very little respect from the rest of his colleagues due to his incompetence. He is, however, shown to have a stable home life, as well as some very interesting hobbies and stories to tell, much to his co-workers' surprise. Jamie, for his part, mostly doesn't seem to notice the sheer lack of respect that the others have for him. Some notable ads include:
- In "High Council", Flo assembles a council of insurance members. As she praises her colleagues for their good work (even Mara, who's barely interested in her job and spends most of her time on her phone), she can't find anything positive to say about Jamie.
- The "Ride Along" ad, which is detailed below in "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot.
- In "Primetime", Jamie comes to the Progressive set to shoot an ad. As he hypes himself via voiceover narration, he parks in a VIP spot despite not being allowed to and signs an autograph for someone who doesn't want one. He's so immersed into his own world that he completely fails to notice that no one wants him here and that he's not even supposed to be filming anything that day. When Jamie says that he thought it was Thursday, one of the crew members says that it is Thursday. Jamie replies that he thought it was last Thursday as he walks off the set.
- Commercial Switcheroo:
- One spot advertises the services as an insurance-based amusement park called "Progressive Park." then cuts to show the Progressive team standing in an empty parking lot saying it was probably a bad idea.
- This one takes place at a restaurant called Portabella's, but when the waiters clearly resemble the Progressive actors, the diners realize they might be in a Progressive commercial. This may count as an inversion, since it starts off talking about Progressive but ends with a jingle for the Portabella's restaurant.
- One campaign appeared to sell a series of Flo action figures to talk about how Progressive helps small businesses.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: One ad has Jamie drive along with a customer to assess her car insurance needs, and gradually makes a nuisance of himself. Then a radio ad for Progressive has Flo mention that she could just use the company app. Cut to Jamie on the curb as the customer drives away.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Flo describes bundling home and auto insurance to a child in such a way that it resembles sex. The child's mother covers his ears as a result of this.
- Crappy Carnival: One commercial begins as an ad for a fake insurance-themed theme park, Progressive Park, with rides such as the "Traffic Jam" (a very slow-moving roller coaster), and "never-bump" bumper cars (there's only one car in the entire arena). Cue a smash cut to Flo and the gang in an empty parking lot, contemplating over whether an insurance-themed amusement park was a good idea in the first place while the parks canine mascot obliviously dances away in the background.
- Creepy Monotone: In one ad, Flo leads a group of agents out of a cornfield to tell a homeowner he's saving by bundling...but they do it in this sort of voice, eventually in unison, freaking them out.
- Crossover: Sonic the Hedgehog visits Flo and Jaime in the Progressive store in one of the ads.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jamie tends to be the Butt-Monkey in many commercials — except for the few where he's The Ace, as described above.
- Deliberately Monochrome: This ad, which is made to look like a black-and-white commercial from the 1950's.
- Deserted Island: One ad has Flo stuck on an island with only the Name Your Price tool, which she uses to crack open a coconut, catch a fish, and start a fire. It's then revealed that she's actually just having a conversation with her co-workers about the one thing they'd bring to survive on a deserted island. Jamie is shocked to learn that Flo would bring the Name Your Price tool with her. When Alan asks Jamie what he'd bring instead, he goes with the much more practical option of a boat.
- Happy Place: On one ad, Alan gets bored during a presentation and daydreams about driving up to a cabin in the woods, with "Alan's Happy Place" written over the door. Then he finds the other agents there as well, saying that it's better than being at the presentation.
- Jackhammered Conversation: One of the sign waver ads has him talking to a girl, but his conversation is drowned out by a truck. After the truck leaves, all we hear is " and I never went to the zoo again."
- Job-Stealing Robot: In the ad that introduces Flo-bot, Flo gets jealous of it after someone says it's just like the "real Flo" and pours water on it. "Uh-oh. Flo-bot... is broken."
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Flo was once shown as the band manager for The Dizzcounts, whose members are Safe Driver, Paperless, Paid in Full, Multi-Car, and Joey Fatone.
- Less Embarrassing Term: One ad has Flo telling a couple that Progressive can compare its rate with those of other top companies, thereby sparing them from spending all day shopping around to compare.Flo: [to husband] And no more holding her purse!
Wife: [irritated] It's a European shoulder bag.
Husband: [sheepish] It Was a Gift. [rolls eyes to indicate wife]
- Married to the Job:
- Flo is very dedicated to her work and seemingly cannot get through a conversation without bringing it up. This greatly annoys both her family and her co-workers.
- In one ad, Mara pretends to be one of these and goes on a spiel about insurance to drive away a pickup artist at a bar. Flo doesn't understand why he was uninterested about that and thinks that it was pretty good.
- Mistaken for Pregnant: In one commercial, Progressive employee Jake makes bad "bundle" jokes (and puts a dollar into a jar for each such joke he makes). One of them is him telling a woman she'd have two bundles of joy, to which she says she isn't pregnant, making Jake walk off awkwardly.
- Mistaken for Servant: One ad is the title sequence for a family sitcom titled "Maid for Us", whose Expository Theme Song assumes Flo is the "wacky new maid", despite her objections.Singer: She's not the maid we wanted...
Flo: Because I'm not the maid!
Singer: But she's the one we've got.
Flo: Again, I'm not the maid! I protect your home and auto!
Neighbor: Hey, Campbells. Who's the new maid?
- Moment Killer: Flo. One commercial involves two girls who are looking at a hot new guy at the laundromat. Just as one of them convinces the other to go over and talk to him and the guy seems to be interested as well, Flo comes up and welcomes him to the neighborhood, saying she wants to tell him about deals on insurance.Guy: (indicating the woman) Oh, I was just—Flo: Oh, Tammy, I found your retainer!
- Motorcycle Dominoes: In one ad, a strawman competitor to Progressive knocks over a motorcycle. Flo says "It's not like bikers love their bikes more than life itself. I doubt anyone will notice." Cue big, burly, angry biker.
- Non-Residential Residence: In the "At Home with Baker Mayfield" ads, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and his wife Emily live in FirstEnergy Stadium, never acknowledging that it is not a normal home.
- No Social Skills: Flo, whose quirky, cheerful personality and complete enthusiasm for her job sometimes hinders her ability to socially interact with others.
- On Ice: Spoofed on the "Progressive On Ice" ad.
- Parody Sue: Jamie is The Ace, with multiple black belts in different martial arts, a loving family with a rich international model, talents in law and music, and more connections and stories than one can imagine...but all of that is background material, because he spends most of his time on his obsession with insurance, the one field he's not great in.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: In the Sonic the Hedgehog crossover ad, Sonic the Hedgehog is animated in CGI while the Progressive characters remain live-action.
- Scooby Stack: One ad references classic sitcom openings with a family who has hired Flo as their maid. At one point the family does a stack like this to look around a door and into the kitchen.
- One of the ads has Flo and Jaime watching a game show called "Smart Off", which is a pretty blatant parody of Jeopardy! right down to the set resembling that of said game show.
- One ad is half this and half Take That! to Chevrolet's "Real People, Not Actors" series of commercials, where the spokesperson surprises a group of people by opening doors and moving stuff. This one has Jamie react in an over-the-top manner to every one of the moves, and starts "Real Actors, Not People."
- The Swear Jar: One ad had Jake put a dollar into a jar for every bad "bundle" joke he made. Good thing, too, because the "bundle" jokes get worse and worse.
- The Talk: Parodied in one of the commercials. Flo explains to a child what happens when you bundle home and auto insurance in a way that makes it look a lot like sex, complete with sexy background music and a horrified mother holding her son's ears shut. Flo even asks if she'd rather the kid "learned it on the streets".
- Totally Radical: An inversion. Flo tries helping out an elderly customer who uses outdated slang from the mid-20th century. Needless to say, she has no idea what he's talking about.
- Trivially Obvious: A critic's blurb on the "Progressive On Ice" ad reads "I had the whole row to myself."
- Turning Into Your Parent: A series of commercials features "Dr. Rick," a life coach who instructs young couples who have recently bought a house on how not to turn into their parents. Lessons warn of putting too many pillows on the couch, grunting when sitting down and how to correctly pronounce "quinoa."
- Very Special Episode: One commercial is a Afterschool Special parody, complete with the Stylistic Suck of fuzzy video and letterbox, in which Jamie learns the hard way from Flo that "sprinkles are for winners."
- Waving Signs Around: One of their semi-regular campaigns involves a guy with a sign which reads that drivers who save with Progressive save over $750 on average. In one ad he finds himself standing next to another guy who's advertising condos who says that people will look at his condo sign because the insurance sign is pointing at it. So the Progressive guy flips his sign around so it's pointing in the opposite direction.
- What Were They Selling Again?:
- The ads usually avert this by having the characters explain the tools they offer in the ads, but there's a few that lean more towards being 30-second sketches that just briefly mention an insurance gimmick. For example, there's an ad where some stereotypical office characters discuss how generic they are, only briefly mentioning that they want Progressive's Name Your Price tool without explaining why.
- The "sign" commercials just have a guy with a sign that says "Drivers who save with Progressive save over $750 on avg." and don't really explain anything other than that.
- White Void Room: The Progressive store, being an almost entirely white room on the inside, resembles one.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: In one "Dr. Rick" ad, Dr. Rick and some of his patients go on a group outing to a store, where they come across a young man with blue hair. The patients all stare at him, something that Dr. Rick tries to discourage.
- You're Not My Father: A teenager yells this at Jamie in one ad where he gives the mistaken impression that he's marrying his mom (when he's really just selling her homeowner's insurance).