Gottfried Gone, Aflac Issues Duck Call Online

aflac-duckAfter severing ties with the voice of its spokesduck over what it deemed insensitive remarks about Japan, supplemental insurance company Aflac is in the midst of a nationwide casting call to find a new voice for the Aflac Duck.

As a result, the company has partnered with Monster.com and launched a new site, Quackaflac.com, where aspiring vocal artists can submit online applications and find nearby casting calls, as well as contribute to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund for Japan.

On March 14, Aflac issued a press release, saying it had fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried – the sole voice of the Duck since it first appeared in commercials in 2000 – over tweets he made joking about the situation in Japan.

“Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” CMO Michael Zuna said in a prepared statement at the time.

Roughly 75 percent of Aflac’s business is in Japan, which may explain why the company took such swift action. (Gottfried was not the voice of the Duck in Japan.)

Participants interested in filling Gottfried’s shoes can submit online applications until April 1 at midnight PST or sign up for a casting call in one of six U.S. cities in the first week of April – New York, L.A., Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin and Atlanta. The in-person casting calls are by appointment only.

The job description for the new voice went live about ten days ago and Aflac has since had more than 6,000 online submissions. Zuna expects to see an additional 1,000 people at the in-person casting calls. As a result of the “Answer the Duck’s Call”-campaign, the Aflac Duck has gained about 6,000 fans on Facebook, giving him nearly 243,000.

Aflac says candidates will be judged on their ability to communicate an entire vocabulary in one word – “Aflac” – as well as on how their voices can help the Duck sound informative, frustrated, happy, hurt or angry, including grunts, groans and mutterings.

Ten finalists will be selected for a callback and will be required to conduct a second audition either via satellite or in person in New York.

And, while searching for a new voice, Aflac is airing its “Silent Movie” commercial on TV, which stars the Aflac Duck in a scene that resembles an old silent movie – i.e., in which the Duck has no voice.

Since 2000, the Aflac Duck has appeared in 52 television ads. According to Aflac, the Duck helped increase the company’s brand awareness from 10 percent to 93 percent.

Zuna says Aflac CEO Dan Amos decided on using the Duck eleven years ago after seeing two campaigns from the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York. One campaign featured comedian Ray Romano and the other, naturally, featured the Duck. Sadly for Romano, it was the Duck that tested well.

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