May 19, 2024

Media Decoder: Aflac Finds Its New Duck on the … Web

A Minnesota radio executive who auditioned online has been selected by Aflac to provide the voice of its duck character in commercials.

Dan McKeague of Hugo, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, was chosen from among more than 12,500 people who auditioned online and live. Mr. McKeague is a sales manager for two Minneapolis FM radio stations that are part of Citadel Broadcasting, KQRS and Love 105.

Mr. McKeague, who is 36, has also performed voice-over work in commercials for local advertisers.

Aflac found it necessary to search for a new voice for the duck after the company fired the comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who had supplied the character’s squawking cry of “Aflac!” since the campaign began. Mr. Gottfried was dismissed on March 14 after he posted to his Twitter account a series of jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Although Aflac runs different commercials in Japan, which do not use Mr. Gottfried’s voice, his posts hit a nerve because about 75 percent of the company’s revenue is derived from Japan.

Alfac decided to try to create some positive publicity after the incident by conducting a nationwide audition to find Mr. Gottfried’s successor.

In addition to the online auditions, which were housed on a special Web site,, there were live auditions this month in six cities: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York.

All those who auditioned were evaluated by casting agents, advertising executives and Aflac executives. They narrowed the field to 20 finalists, who were called back for second auditions. The 20 finalists were further narrowed to a field of eight, from which Mr. McKeague was picked.

“Dan impressed us with his vocal range and acting ability,” Michael Zuna, chief marketing officer at Aflac, in Columbus, Ga., said in a statement.

Mr. McKeague, in a statement, said, “I have long admired people who can act and make the most of their voice and have tried to emulate them.”

Mr. McKeague is being put to work immediately, to supply the duck’s voice for an Aflac commercial titled “Pigeon.” Mr. Gottfried’s voice had previously been used for the spot.

There have been 52 television commercials featuring the duck since 2000, along with numerous radio ads.
Aflac has estimated that the winner of the selection process would be paid in the low six figures.

During the audition process, Aflac executives emphasized that the winner would have to be a worthy representative of the company’s values in addition to being an effective voice-over actor.

In informing reporters on Tuesday about the selection of Mr. McKeague, the company included information about his work as the vice president of the board of a nonprofit organization, Children’s Safety Centers in St. Paul.

He was also described in the first paragraph of the news release, and a sub-headline, as a “married father of three” and “Minnesota father of three.” The sub-headline could not resist a pun, stating that Mr. McKeague “fits the bill” as the new voice of the duck.

The duck was created by the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, part of the Publicis Groupe, which continues to work for the company. The two creators of the character from the agency took part in the live auditions in New York.

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