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Flo, Rob Lowe, and the Importance of Repetition: the Importance of Repetition.

Flo has eclipsed 100 unique commercials for Progressive Insurance. Again, Flo has eclipsed 100 unique commercials for Progressive Insurance. While that may pale in comparison to the Geico Gecko, that’s more appearances than the Budweiser frogs and Spuds MacKenzie combined. She’s no Mr. Whipple, whose reign of toilet-related terror eclipsed two decades, but she’s now been situated between innumerable for-profit university spots and antacid tab ads since 2008. You may be lukewarm towards Flo. You’ve probably shared a chuckle, shaken your head at a few jokes that didn’t land, muted the DAMN TV CAUSE WHY DOES BREAKING BAD HAVE COMMERCIAL BREAKS, and largely ignored the rest. You probably have a favorite, too. Personally, I love the Thanksgiving exchange with her family. For a brief moment, we’re reminded that Flo is just an over-exuberant Progressive employee, complete with her own life outside of work. The echoing “Give it a rest, Flo” line is so brilliantly meta, since every football-crazed fan and zombie-frenzied fanboy has felt that sentiment while waiting for their programming to resume.

The power of repetition has been a hot talking point. Malcolm Gladwell financed a yacht using his principle of expertise in 10,000 hours, while Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” stresses the importance of dedicating just 10 minutes a day to a desired skill or ability. I guess the viable next question that marketing minds are concerned with is, at what point does repetition manifest into learned memory? And even MORE troublesome, does this learned memory correlate positively with our audience and what we want them to think? A popular way to remember a new acquaintance’s name is to repeat it three times. (As someone who struggles to remember names, I find this largely ineffective. My preferred method is to tie a memorable facial feature to an inanimate object that it looks like + their name. If it rhymes, even better.) But what if your media budget only allows the sporadic spot? DirecTV can afford to shake the dust off of Rob Lowe and his fractured personalities whenever they please, but the corner coffee shop is going to be hard-pressed to grind a conditioned feeling into your subconscious.

I’m fascinated by the relationship of frequency and familiarity, especially when it comes to corporate mascots – mostly because the principles of “good” advertising generally go out the window when they’re involved. We know the ads are bad by and large, and yet still get sucked in. We forgive palatable repetition though, like DDB’s famed Volkswagon campaign of the 50s and 60s. So where’s the memory threshold? Unfortunately this question will go unanswered, for if I had a solution, I’d be rich enough to no longer look like Halfway Hipster Rob Lowe.

~ Chase Cambria, Jr. Copywriter, The S3 Agency


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