Madison+Vine - 'Snicket' is the ticket for Aflac: Duck auditions

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The famous Aflac duck may finally break into Hollywood. The pop culture icon's "parent," American Family Life Assurance Co., is in talks with Paramount to ink a deal that would include the duck in a scene from the upcoming flick, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events."

"Our initial reaction to 'Lemony Snicket' 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.

scene shot

A scene has already been shot, according to executives familiar with the situation, although Aflac would neither confirm nor deny it, and Paramount had not returned calls at press time.

Aflac has for several years been exploring Hollywood options for its duck, created in 1999 by Aflac's advertising agency, Publicis Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group, New York, and known for its quack. The company several years ago retained former Saatchi & Saatchi advertising executive Amy Willstatter, founder of Bridge to Hollywood/ Bridge to Broadway, New York, to scope out possibilities. One of her initial successes on behalf of Aflac was getting the insurer mentioned in Universal Picture's "Along Came Polly," which stars Ben Stiller, who plays a risk assessment manager at a company owned by Aflac.

Various 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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."

The movie is set for release in December 2004.

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