Aflac Inc. (American Family Life Assurance Company) is an insurance company. The company, based in Columbus, Georgia, was founded in 1955 by brothers John, Paul and William Amos. Aflac Inc. is the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States, providing insurance to over 50 million Americans. The company is perhaps best known for its payroll deduction insurance coverage, which pays cash benefits when a policyholder has a covered accident or illness.
Starting in late 1999, Aflac's identity and brand have been widely represented in the United States through a series of TV commercials featuring the Aflac Duck; a duck who quacks the company's name to surprised policy holders. The character was created by The Kaplan Thaler Group, and is distinguishable by his famous catchphrase, "Alfaaaac!". The Aflac Duck has since been an addition to Madison Avenue's Walk of Fame as one of America's Favorite Advertising Icons.
2001 marked the beginning of a partnership between Aflac and the American department store chain, Macy's. The two companies have partnered every year to produce an annual Aflac Duck holiday plush doll. All proceeds from the dolls go towards the participating children’s cancer facility nearest to where it is purchased. Since its inception, the dolls have raised over $3 million.
History with the Macy's Parade
The Aflac Duck made his Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in the 2011 Parade, as a special "balloonicle" (a Macy's hybrid vehicle and balloon). The 35-foot tall "spokesduck" is depicted dashing through the snow on a 22'x8' toboggan, keeping warm with a red and green winter scarf. The balloonicle was created in conjunction with the nationwide launch of the aforementioned Aflac Duck plush toys.
The Aflac Duck balloonicle was the first-ever balloonicle to incorporate a sound unit into the design; an act which had last been done in the 1930s, with the famous catchphrase of "Aflaaac!" emitting from the duck as he slipped and slid his way down the streets of New York City. The lines were recorded especially for the Parade by voice actor Daniel McKeague, who had recently began voicing the Aflac Duck in April 2011.
Laura Kane, chief communications officer for Aflac, said in an interview that the Aflac balloonicle took over a year to discover the right concept. Kane said the concept was chosen because "the idea of a duck on a toboggan was just funny". 
Commenting on the balloonicle's debut, former Parade Director Amy Kule said "we are extremely pleased to expand our long-standing relationship with Aflac, which will undoubtedly bring excitement to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade lineup with a whimsical 35-foot-tall balloonicle, as well as to our stores nationwide with the Holiday Duck, Santa Claus visits, and event integrations. The Aflac Duck has always been a favorite collectible plush in our stores and expanding his visibility will bring him to new fans this holiday season."
After the 2013 procession, a brand-new Aflac Duck balloonicle was in development for the 2014 Parade. Joel Naprstek, a former concept artist, sketched three considered designs for the famed spokesduck's second balloonicle, depicting him riding on a monster truck, bumper car, and a race car. None of said designs would make the cut.
Eventually, the Parade team settled on a final design -- at 33 feet tall, the second balloonicle features the beloved advertising icon lacing up a pair of web-footed ice skates and trying his wing at ice skating -- which is revealed to not the the feathered foul's forte as he sits, fallen, on a chunk of ice. Like its previous incarnation, the balloonicle touted its famous catchphrase along the Parade route.
The 20-foot wide balloonicle was also featured in the design of that year's Aflac Duck holiday plush. The plush came in two sizes -- six inches and ten inches -- and when squeezed, allows the plush to quack its familiar catchphrase. As part of Aflac Inc's growing partnership with cancer centers nationwide, 11-year old Austin Freeman, a cancer patient at the Aflac Cancer Center, was invited to the unveiling of the second Aflac Duck balloon at Macy's BalloonFest 2014 and given a complimentary plush toy of the Aflac Duck.
The second Aflac Duck balloonicle made its way down the streets of Manhattan for three consecutive appearances and celebrated Aflac's 60th anniversary milestone with its appearance in the 2015 Parade. The balloonicle was retired from the line of march after the 2016 Parade.
The third and most recent Aflac Duck balloonicle makes its debut appearance in the 2017 Parade. The design depicted the 30-foot tall, 15-foot wide icon sliding down the Parade route on an innertube that is larger than the size of an in-ground home swimming pool. Sporting a festive blue and white hat an scarf, the Aflac Duck's heart-shaped wings encase glowing, beating heart. As always, the balloonicle travelled throughout the canyons of skyscrapers while quacking his "Aflaaac" cathphrase.
The inclusion of the blinking light in the Aflac Duck marks the fifth time a light-up feature has been included in a balloon element.
The 2017 edition of the Aflac Duck holiday plush mirrored the balloonicles design. Likewise, another patient from the Aflac Cancer Canter was chosen to make a VIP appearance at the balloonicle's official unveiling to the public. 10-year old Teryn Buster, who was diagnosed with sickle cell cancer, was given a tour of the Moonachie-based Macy's Parade Studio and given special access to Macy's BalloonFest 2017.
The third Aflac Duck balloonicle made its final appearance in the 2019 Parade, with Aflac CEO and Chairman Dan Amos saying in a press release, "The Aflac Duck has been entertaining Americans for nearly 20 years as one of the world's most famous brand icons, so we could not be more delighted that he will once again be part of the legendary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC."