ORLANDO: Progressive Insurance, the financial-services group, runs its marketing function like a "network" – a strategy focusing its attention on matters such as content, context and characters.

Jeff Charney, Progressive's chief marketing officer, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2015 Masters of Marketing Conference.

"We run our marketing department differently than any of you in this room," he said. (For more, including how the brand leverages storytelling, read Warc's exclusive report: Progressive's CMO boasts: "I run a network".)

"We run [it] as a network. I am chief marketing officer. I'm also chief programming officer for hundreds and hundreds of channels."

Such a model, Charney suggested, has numerous advantages – but relies, as with the best broadcast output, on finding the right context and developing engaging characters.

"It's much more exciting to run a network. If programs don't work, they don't work. But it really is much more exciting. It gives people something a little different than just coming in and crunching numbers.

"But if I'm running a network, I better know my content, I better know my context. And essential to a network is a great cast of characters."

This idea is exemplified by Flo, who has been the face of Progressive since 2007 and appeared in over 130 episodes for the company. "If you love Flo or hate Flo," Charney said, "she has really good longevity."

Ensuring its marketing involves a broader slate of characters capable of catching and keeping consumer attention is equally important.

A recent example is "Baby Man" – a young adult male that still acts like an infant – who has featured in digital marketing efforts, and reflects consumers' "thinking" age, rather than their actual age.

"The insight here: grow up and cut the cord. Act your age. Dump your parents' insurance company," Charney said. "'Baby Man' is in his twenties, but you'd never know it because he thinks much younger."

Data sourced from Warc