What If…Flo from Progressive had Become Toyota Jan?
For those of you not familiar with the premise of the What If…? comics, a brief introduction: Marvel began an ongoing series in 1977 that took a non-canon look at how drastically different its comic universe would be if certain events had transpired, never transpired, or transpired differently. Examples include Spider-Man joining the Fantastic Four, Vision destroying the Avengers, and Dr. Doom being a hero.
These comics were particularly popular because they play into the idea of one small change utterly altering the course of history. These stories fascinate us because we spend so much of our lives wondering what if. One of those more frivolous what if scenarios that we like to kick around at the office regards two icons of automotive advertising: what if Toyota Jan and Flo from Progressive swapped places.
As it turns out, this might have been closer to reality than we thought.
In an April 6th story on Cosmopolitan.com, Get That Life: How I Became “Flo” From the Progressive Commercials, Stephanie Courtney tells the story of her burgeoning career, her move to LA, and how she ultimately became the big haired auto insurance maven that we all know and love.
In discussing breaking into the commercial game—her earliest parts include spots for Bud Light, McDonald’s, Quaker Oats, and Wienerschnitzel—Courtney says that prior to taking the Progressive gig, she had three other commercial jobs lined up. One stood out in particular:
Then more commercial work came. Right before I booked Progressive, I booked three other commercials — Skittles, Toyota, and one more I can’t remember. I felt good. Maybe that relaxed me enough before going into Progressive. I knew it was meant to be a big campaign, but I had no idea what it looked like. When you’re auditioning, you basically know something like, “It’s a girl behind a counter,” so you get your polo shirt on and you show up. With commercial auditions, less is usually more, but this was a big character. She was funny, she loved her job, and she loved her customers. So I thought, She’ll love them to a fault where she’s walking the line of crazy. It’s like the love just spills over and becomes a tiny bit inappropriate. That’s what I came up with in the audition room.
This about this for a second: Flo from Progressive could have been Toyota Jan.
Granted, this would put the time of Courtney’s audition for the Progressive gig around 2007, which predates the Toyota Jan commercials by about five years. However, one has to wonder: if Courtney had come into the Toyota audition with the same character in mind, would she have become Jan? Would she have been Flo from Toyota? And what would have become of Laurel Coppock? Would she have wound up portraying some iteration of Jan at Progressive, or would she have slotted in somewhere else?
It’s hard to imagine that much would be different, but that’s not for us to say. It’s possible that the presence of Toyota Flo would have galvanized a nation and single-handedly led us out of the financial crisis. The GM/Ford/Chrysler triumvirate would have fallen as Americans far and wide fell in love with Flo and pledged their monies to the Camry and 4Runner. As new car buyers multiplied, Progressive would then spring into action to put forth a Toyota Flo-esque character–spunky and sparky and full of life. This would lead to Jan from Progressive.
Too many questions to ponder over here and too many possible consequences to consider. Somebody call Uatu the Watcher and give him on the case.