Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Jan 30, 2020

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The Aflac duck is a white, comically quacking bird and one of the most recognizable advertising icons in television history.

This duck has become so famous, he (or she?) actually has his replica on Madison Avenue’s Walk of Fame in New York City as one of “America’s Favorites.”

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When was the Aflac Duck created?

The duck was “born” in 2000 as the brainchild of the Kaplan Thaler Advertising Group. Aflac, a major supplemental insurance company, had long been providing cancer policies through group employee plans, but the name was not widely known.

Faced with the problem of making Aflac a household name, one of the art directors at Kaplan was strolling through Central Park at lunch muttering, “Aflac! Aflac!” Suddenly, he realized that the ducks around the lake were making the same noise!

The idea was born, and he hurried back to the office with a whole new advertising scheme already in place.

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The First Aflac Duck Commercials

Over the next few years, the duck, a Pekin or Long Island white, began bringing the company’s name into living rooms across the country, and people everywhere were quacking, “Aflac!” humorously at each other.

The first commercials featured the frustrated duck trying to make people understand the answer as they posed their questions aloud: “What will I do if I am hurt and cannot work? How will I pay my bills?” by quacking the answer at them.

Later commercials expanded the duck’s role to include riding in vehicles, flying, and even break dancing. The commercials targeted their audience by extolling the company’s ability to pay cash for benefits, allowing them to pay their bills when injured or sick.

How famous is the Aflac Duck?

The Aflac duck, who remains unnamed, has been featured in commercials with many famous celebrities, including Chevy Chase, Yogi Berra, Wayne Newton, and the U.S. Olympic synchronized swimming team.

He has also been incorporated into commercials featuring several “Looney Tunes” cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, and the Roadrunner. The commercials are always humorous in nature, and the “Aflac quack” has indeed become a household word.

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Who plays the voice of the Aflac Duck?

The original voice for the duck was performed by comedian Gilbert Gottfried from 2000 until 2011. Gottfried’s distinctive voice and ability to mimic sounds were considered ideal for the variations in tone needed for the commercial, even though the duck only says one word.

However, Gottfried was fired from the job in March of 2011. The comedian posted a “tweet” on his Twitter account, regarding the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It read, in part:

“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now,’” and “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”

The Japanese people and government, already reeling from the horrible tragedy, were highly offended and contacted Gottfried directly to complain. Gilbert later apologized, tweeting:

“I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan” and “I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.”

While Gottfried was not the only celebrity accused of crudity regarding tweets on the tragedy, Aflac took the situation very seriously, severing Gottfried’s contract on March 14. While some fans of the actor believed he was serious about his apology, Aflac was taking no chances with their star icon.

In a statement issued later, Aflac commented, “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.” It is hardly surprising that Aflac wanted to distance themselves from the controversy, after so many years spent building the “family-friendly” iconic duck’s image, which is recognized by as many children as adults.

A week after firing Gottfried, Aflac announced a web contest at QuackAflac.com, running for about two weeks, searching for the next voice of the duck. Commercials aired during this time capitalized on the bizarre situation by showing the duck in a “silent movie” format with no voice and requesting submissions for the new “spokesduck’s” voice.

On April 26, the company announced that Daniel McKeague of Minnesota, an advertising sales manager, would gain the coveted position, despite media speculation about the next celebrity to play the role.

Aflac did not comment on their choice, but some speculated that the company wanted to avoid the problems inherent in hiring a celebrity who might embarrass the company further.

Today, the Aflac duck continues to make commercials and entertain audiences, all the while impressing on viewers the company’s primary function—to give you cash for expenses when you are sick or injured.

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