Tue, 05 May 2020 19:59:51 GMT
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 Jeff. “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 Jeff. “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.”