4 More Influential Female Ad Icons to Add to AdAge’s List

female ad icons flo the progressive girl

Yesterday, AdAge posted their list of the Top 10 Female Ad Icons of All Time. The list is comprised of extremely memorable women from various ad campaigns that have been popular for decades, like Miss Chiquita (dating back to 1944) and Rosie the Riveter (1943), as well as one exception to the age-old favorites that are still relevant today:  Flo, the spunky face of Progressive since 2008.


Here’s the top 10 (and their launch dates) according to AdAge:

  1. The Morton Salt Umbrella Girl (1914)
  2. Betty Crocker (1921)
  3. Miss Chiquita (1944 – revamped in 1987)
  4. Rosie the Riveter (1943)
  5. Josephine the Plumber (1963)
  6. Mrs. Olson (1963)
  7. Madge the Manicurist (1966)
  8. Rosie the Waitress (1970)
  9. Clara Peller (1984)
  10. Flo (2008)

(You can view the full details here)

Female Ad Icons - Flo the Progressive Girl

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While Flo, the only icon on this list from the 21st century, may seem out of place here in comparison to the classic, it is easy to see, having watched any number of the Progressive commercials featuring Flo, her presence on this list is entirely justified. She has a whole host of likeable, memorable, and entertaining qualities, most notably her peppy attitude, sense of humor, and her signature style – her all-white uniform, cherry red lipstick, thick black eyeliner, and teased hair. Visually speaking, Flo’s style plays into the idea of the great classics that came before her, as she appears to be a modern take on the classic vintage style, and arguably, a 21st century version of Josephine the Plumber. Considering all this, Flo seems right at home on this list.

AdAge’s list is a great start to summing up the most iconic female characters from ad campaigns, but there are a few more popular ladies who were noticeably left out. Here are our additions:

1. Little Debbie (launched in 1960)

Female Ad Icons - Little Debbie

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The Little Debbie brand was launched in 1960 when McKee Foods founder O.D. McKee couldn’t decide what to name their newest brand of snack products. McKee was inspired by a photo of his granddaughter Debbie which they used as the inspiration behind their logo. Fun fact: McKee didn’t even tell Debbie’s parents that he was using her name and image as his newest marketing strategy – they found out later when they saw the packages being printed. Little Debbie is an icon that is just as recognizable as many of the women who did make the list.

2. Aunt Jemima (launched in 1889)

Female Ad Icons - Aunt Jemima

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Aunt Jemima pancake mix has been enjoyed by the public since 1889. The inspiration behind the Aunt Jemima brand was a song called “Old Aunt Jemima” written in 1875 that was often performed at minstrel shows. When the original founders sold their company to the Randolph Truett Davis Milling Company in 1890, they hired Nancy Green to be the spokesperson. Anyone who has ever been to a grocery store (whether you like pancakes or not) recognizes Aunt Jemima, making her a noteworthy character to add to the list.

3. The Coppertone Girl (launched in 1953 and revamped in 1959)

Female Ad Icons - The Coppertone Girl

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The adorable image of the Coppertone sunscreen girl and the Cocker Spaniel tugging on her swimsuit bottoms is certainly a symbol of summer as well as yet another great example of females in advertising. Originally, the logo for the popular sunscreen brand was an Indian Chief, but in 1953 they changed it to the little girl that makes us all say “Aww.” In 1959 the cartoon was re-drawn when the original was destroyed in a fire. She was also played by a young Jodie Foster making her debut on TV in 1965.

4. The Green M&M (launched in 1997)

Female Ad Icons - The Green M&M

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The Green M&M was the first female character to be used in the M&Ms commercials, putting a new twist on how everyone saw the popular candy. She became a contrast to her fellow M&Ms – Yellow, Red, and Blue – with her feminine and somewhat seductive personality. Launched 15 years ago, the Green M&M is still a well-known character, and despite the launch of a new female M&M, Ms. Brown, the Green M&M holds a special place in everyone’s hearts.

Are there any other famous female ad icons that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image via @ItsFlo

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