A course module written by Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer was recently published in the winter 2015 volume of Teaching Media Quarterly. Shafer’s article, “Progressive’s Flo: Convergence Brand,” outlines a course module that investigates branding through a case study of Flo, the Progressive Insurance mascot.
Teaching Media Quarterly is an online journal dedicated to circulating practical and timely approaches to media concepts and topics from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. The winter 2015 volume focuses on critical approaches to teaching brands.
Shafer’s module provides a detailed series of assignments, readings, class activities and discussion topics which allow students to work collaboratively to construct a “multi-modal reading of Flo.” Students begin each class with readings that introduce them to the analysis of advertisements, contextualize issues of work and advertising, discuss convergence culture, and assess the changing role of celebrities in the digital era.
The module challenges students to explore two major questions, including: how the representation of the “Progressive SuperStore” can be read as an “emblem of the shift from manufacturing products to manufacturing images,” and also how the labor of fans, producers, and consumers of the Flo brand identity can be read as an example of the unpaid and freely given “immaterial labor” typical of the “prosumer, brand-oriented era.”
Shafer has been a member of the HWS faculty since 2008. She received her A.B. and M.A. from Cornell University, and earned a Ph.D. from the department of theatre, film and dance at Cornell, with her dissertation “Brand Name Vision: Comedy and Props in the Films of John Hughes.”