The famous Aflac duck may finally get its Hollywood close-up. American Family Life Assurance Co., the parent company for the ad icon, is in talks with Paramount Pictures to ink a deal that would secure a scene for the duck in the upcoming flick, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events."
"Our initial reaction to 'Lemony Snicket's' was, what a great story for a supplemental insurance company," said Al Johnson, VP-advertising, Aflac. In the movie, which is based on the first three in a series of children's books by Daniel Handler, the protagonist children—the Baudelaire orphans—are involved in various unpleasant and potentially dangerous situations.
A scene has already been shot, according to executives familiar with the situation, although Aflac would neither confirm nor deny it, and Paramount did not return calls at press time.
Aflac has for several years been exploring Hollywood options for its duck, created in 1999 by Aflac's advertising agency, The Kaplan Thaler Group
, New York, and known for its "AFLAAAC" quack. The company several years ago retained former Saatchi & Saatchi
advertising executive Amy Willstatter, founder of Bridge to Hollywood/Bridge to Broadway, to scope out possibilities. Willstatter learned about Paramount's "Lemony Snicket's" project through the annual L.A. Office RoadShow, and initiated discussions on behalf of Aflac.
Back at company headquarters in Columbus, Georgia, "We read the script, did our research on the director, the actors, and the studio," said Johnson. He wouldn't divulge the status of talks, saying only, "we are pleased with the progress." But several details remain to be hashed out, according to knowledgeable executives. For instance, will the duck make his characteristic quack? "If the duck is in the movie, we'd certainly love for him to say Aflac," said Johnson.
But the company is also sensitive to not wanting to insert what audiences might perceive as a blatant commercial for the brand in the movie. "The partnership we have with the studio is to sit down and discuss what is in the best interests of everyone," said Johnson. "I'm not looking at this as a blatant use of entertainment to further our brand. We want to protect our brand, our brand icon, and the relationship we have with the studio."
Johnson declined to discuss the terms of its arrangement with Paramount, saying only, "There are a lot of different ways you can get your product or brand in a movie." As for when the deal will be finalized, Johnson said, "We are working on this day to day." They better hurry; the movie is set for release in December 2004.