I hate you, but you’re so effective

Do you know Flo? Of course you do, she’s that horribly annoying, over-the-top bubbly woman from the Progressive commercials.

This is her:

I hate her. I mean I really, really, really despise her. Played by actor and comedian Stephanie Courtney (who’s not funny in her own right, I’ve seen her stand-up), she’s horrible and annoying. In fact, most of the time when I see a Progressive commercial in which she’s starring, I decide that it’s a good time to get a glass of water or let the dog outside.

But you know what? As much as I hate her, she is effective. I mean, after all, I know what product she’s hawking don’t I? What’s more, I know that they let you choose your own price and have discounts for multiple policies. That means, as much as I would love to see Flo disappear from our cultural landscape, as much as I despise her, she’s part of a successful campaign.

It’s funny how that works. When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, I remember watching television with my grandma. There was a local Chevrolet dealer, Don Brown Chevrolet (see? I still remember the name) that had similarly excruciating commercials.  And every one of them started with the dealership’s namesake at the beginning of the commercial saying “Hi, I’m Don Brown”, to which my grandmother, being the cantankerous lady that she is would respond, “Hi, you’re stupid”. Annoying, obnoxious, but effective.

Why does this work?  I’m no psychologist, but it seems to me that this type of advertising is effective because we love to hate things. There’s nothing Americans love more than something to get the blood boiling, get us all riled up, and make us feel superior. And ad makers are smart people – they know this. Thus, rather than give us a ton of classy, cool, and/or funny spots, they sprinkle our television viewing in with a few ads like Flo or pretty much anything from Taco Bell

So the next time you’re watching television or listening to the radio and your senses are assaulted with one of those commercials we all hate, don’t get mad. Just remember, that’s what the goal is – to irritate you so much that you can’t forget the product or service. It’s a devious trick, but one that works really well.


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