Aflac Inc. (American Family Life Assurance Company) is an American insurance company and is the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States. The company was founded in 1955 and is based in Columbus, Georgia. In the U.S., Aflac underwrites a wide range of insurance policies, but is perhaps more known for its payroll deduction insurance coverage, which pays cash benefits when a policy holder has a covered accident and/or illness. The company states it "provides financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide".
Since December 1999, the company's identity and brand has become more widely recognized in the United States as the result of TV commercials featuring the Aflac Duck, who frustratedly quacks the company's name to unsuspecting prospective policy holders.
The duck concept and all of the commercials to date have been created by Kaplan Thaler Group, an advertising agency based in New York City. Metzer Farms, a Gonzales, California, goose, duck, and gamebird hatchery, supplied them with the initial ducklings that each grew into the famous duck. Struggling to come up with a concept to make the big but relatively obscure insurance company's name memorable, one of the agency's art directors stumbled upon the duck idea while walking around Central Park at lunchtime uttering, "Aflac, Aflac." He soon realized how much the company's name sounded like a duck's quack. The Aflac Duck character has now starred in more than 30 commercials. In many of these commercials, character actor Earl Billings also appears. The Aflac Duck is enshrined on Madison Avenue's Walk of Fame as one of America's Favorite Advertising Icons.
History with the Macy's Parade
In 2011, the company's beloved mascot, the Aflac Duck, made his Parade debut. The famed spokesduck takes on a new form for the festivities as a 35-foot tall balloonicle. Riding on a sleigh and wearing a festive holiday scarf, the Aflac Duck balloonicle slid his way down the Parade route, touting his famous catchphrase "Afflaaac!". This balloonicle was last seen in the 2013 Parade, and now remains in the Macy's float warehouse.
The Aflac Duck would debut with his second balloonicle in the 2014 Parade, as he tries his hand, or rather his wing at ice skating, as he sports a stylish winter hat, a blue-and-white striped scarf, and custom-made ice skates. This balloonicle would make three appearances, and was retired after the 2016 Parade. Much like its predecessor, it now remains dormant in the Macy's float warehouse.
The third and current Aflac Duck balloonicle first appeared in 2017. The balloonicle showcases The Aflac Duck's glowing red heart, encased by his heart-shaped wings. His inner tube base to “slide” down the Parade route is larger than the size of an in-ground home swimming pool. The balloonicle still makes appearances as of the 2019 Parade, making the Aflac Duck a Parade mainstay.
In addition to appearing as a balloonicle, Macy's has also produced a special Aflac Duck plush for the holiday season since 2001. A separate article for these plushies can be read here.
- The third version of the Aflac Duck is the first-ever balloonicle to utilize a blinking light, in the form of the duck's beating heart.
- As of 2019, the Aflac Duck holds the record for the only balloonicle to have more than one version of a specific character.