NEW YORK: Brands such as Progressive, Captain Morgan and Mr Clean are deploying their associated mascots and characters to engage consumers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Progressive, the insurance provider, has used a fictional female sales clerk named "Flo" in its ads since 2008. Her related Facebook page now has 3.5m fans.

In an extension of this idea, the firm developed a Facebook presence for "The Messenger", also from its ads and playing the part of the insurance customer, who has some 14,600 fans on Facebook.

"Consumers are less likely to have a conversation with a logo or a PR guy on social media," Jeff Charney, CMO for Progressive, told the Wall Street Journal.

StubHub, a tickets website belonging to eBay, has recently rolled out an ad campaign starring a cartoon tree called the "Ticket Oak", which it hopes will make a mark online.

"You can put fairly bald product benefits into the mouth of a mascot and it doesn't come off as hard sell," Parker Channon, from Duncan/Channon, the agency behind StubHub's latest campaign idea, said.

Michael Lattig, StubHub's head of brand, added that the company is currently focusing on Facebook. "We are still looking at Twitter but it's a 24/7 medium that needs dedicated resources," he said.

Spam, owned by Hormel Foods, created the Sir Can A-Lot character this year to reach young consumers, with social media key to these efforts. Kraft's MilkBite granola bar also uses the Facebook profile of Mel, its puppet representative, as the homepage for its main website.

Captain Morgan, Diageo's rum, similarly began featuring an animated version of its pirate insignia in ads last year, with agency Anomaly handling the associated Facebook activity.

Aflac, the insurance firm, has also established a Facebook account for its long-standing duck mascot, now boasting over 313,000 Facebook fans and more than 14,000 Twitter followers.

Elsewhere, Mr Clean, the eponymous character for Procter & Gamble's cleaning range, started making posts to Facebook in 2011, attracting 280,000 "likes" thus far.

This page focuses on amusing and interactive content, rather than simply pushing deals. "Our strategy has been not to put things like coupons and promotions," said Mark Renshaw, chief innovation officer at Leo Burnett, which worked on this project.

NOTE: This story was corrected on 27/03/2012. The original version erroneously referred to StarHub rather than StubHub.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff