Aflac’s Quackless Commercial

Last week, DuetsBlog squawked about Aflac’s recent firing of Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of the Aflac Duck after he comments he made about the Japan crisis.  The characteristic quack of the Aflac Duck is a registered trademark of Aflac, presenting a number of issues concerning the future of use of the quack by Aflac and Gottfried, as well as the company’s ability to recruit a new voice.  DuetsBlog posited that a company with Aflac’s sophistication had likely dealt with those issues long ago, presumably in contract.  However, I saw a commercial this morning that perhaps suggested otherwise.

Aflac is great at marketing, and a silent commercial caught my ear while I was making breakfast and reading the paper.  So is this commercial a result of legal controlling the marketing department, or is this a new PR venture for Aflac?

It is highly unlikely that the split with Gottfried left the permissible use of the mark in question.  DuetsBlogs just has to be right about that: a company with that level of business acumen likely had many strategies thought out in advance.  Aflac is clearly the registered owner and likely has the right to use the mark.  It is extremely doubtful that Gottfried contracted with Aflac to remove their ability to use his voice after his engagement ended.  Nevertheless, who knows what goes behind closed doors and contracts.

It appears to me, from the looks of the casting call in the commercial and in this job ad, that Aflac is moving on from the old Aflac quack.  Note that the TV spot says “be the next voice,” not “be the Aflac voice” or “be the duck voice.”  And the job listing requests a 30-second audio bit that can include grunts, groans, and mutterings, but no words other than Aflac, all while making the word sound like whatever the Aflac Duck should sound like (not what it does sound like).  So, is it possible that Aflac is avoiding in any association with Gilbert Gottfried at all, going so far in separating itself from his comments as to leave behind the characteristic Aflac squawk?  Has Gottfried tarnished the brand?  It is hard to imagine that the company would be willing to sacrifice a brand worth so much over his comments; perhaps, instead, Aflac took the opportunity to move on with its marketing strategy, involve the public, and put the Gottfried matter behind it.

No word yet on whether Ben Affleck has submitted for the role.

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