If they didn't know before, most people now realize that the screechy, nasal daffy voice emanating from the Aflac duck in its commercials for the last decade was that of comedian Gilbert Gottfried.
They also likely know that, in a masochistic move that bordered on financial (if not professional) suicide, Gottfried inappropriately tweeted some crass jokes about the Japanese disaster and was summarily dismissed as the brand's mascot voice by the insurance company.
Little did he know (or at least, care) that three quarters of Aflac's revenue comes from its Japanese business.
Aflac, meanwhile, is moving on. With an advertising mascot that has literally been the voice of the brand for a decade, it's not about to let the duck die — or even duck the controversy.
In a brilliant interim strategy, Aflac is reviving a commercial it ran in 2005 that used a silent movie motif. In the commercial, the duck's voice is replaced by a title card, much like the cards used in silent movies, so it is never actually heard.
Laura Kane, a spokeswoman for Aflac, tells Stuart Elliott of the New York Times that a new title card was added at the end of the spot, which debuts today, reading, "Be the next voice. Go to Aflack Duck on Facebook." Here's the updated version:
Applications for the casting call are being handled by Monster.com, an online job service that already has Aflac as a client. Ted Gilvar, Monster's CMO, told the Times that his company "approached Aflac when we heard of the situation with Gilbert Gottfried. We thought they might need some help in finding a new voice."
In advance of the casting call commercial going live tonight, the Aflac duck has been posting teasers on his Facebook page, and there's a special website with more details.
The Times reports that Gottfried's public firing led to a groundswell of suggestions for replacing the duck voice: "...folks have been clamoring for the job. Some have recommended their local DJ's. Others have posted audition videos on YouTube. The company has even received calls from interested parties giving their best impressions of ducks and other animals, including cats, dogs, and dolphins."
Aflac listened to public opinion, and has turned around a regrettable situation with a sense of humor. In the wake of what could have been a disaster, the company saved its duck — and its goose — and got a lot of free, positive publicity for the brand, too. Isn't that just — ahem! — ducky.
Update: Laura Kane contacted us with the following clarification: "Monster did not come up with the idea of looking for a replacement for the voice of the Aflac Duck. When Aflac severed ties with Gilbert Gottfried on March 14th, we knew that we need to fill his job. So, we chose to partner with Monster since they are a leader in the job search business. After all this is a job search, not a contest."