Aflac Spots ‘Quack’ Wise

Aflac is shifting its long-standing strategy and launching a new integrated pitch, which is designed to educate consumers about America’s largest provider of supplemental insurance.

The initiative, built around a “You don’t know quack” challenge to consumers, reduces Aflac’s traditionally heavy use of TV. Aflac will continue to feature its signature duck — albeit in a new animated form — but the company is using 45 different offline and online elements in the effort, unlike in the past, when the client relied heavily on traditional media advertising. Those elements include: a “Reverse Dialogue” YouTube challenge, where consumers will be asked to tell Aflac what the company does; a promotion built around the duck’s 10th birthday; and an Aflac duck-mobile entered in a California Nascar race.

“This is the largest and most integrated campaign we’ve ever done. In doing it, we’re looking for greater efficiencies, integration and relevancy,” said Aflac chief marketing officer Jeff Charney. “For ten years, we ran 46 commercials, and Aflac had great brand recognition. But if you went and asked people what Aflac does, four in 100 people would have understood us.”

The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, Fla., which has been on Aflac’s roster since 2000, created the latest concept and media executions, including three TV spots, outdoor, print and microsites. Aside from the consumer work, the campaign has business-to-business and product-specific executions, as well as those targeting brokers in the insurance community.

Charney, the former marketing chief at retailer QVC, joined Aflac in November 2008. Last month, Aflac confirmed that Charney had launched an agency review, in which the incumbent, Publicis Groupe’s The Kaplan Thaler Group, chose not to defend. KTG, Aflac’s agency of 10 years, had created Aflac’s duck mascot.

“The need for integration was the reason for putting the account in review,” Charney said. “We’re searching for a partner who can make us more integrated and do that faster and more creatively. KTG got us to where we are after the first ten years and we’re looking for a partner who will take us to where we need to be in the next ten years.”

Charney plans to finalize the list of contenders next week, with a decision expected in March. Select Resources International, Santa Monica, Calif., is guiding the review. Aflac spent $76 million on advertising in 2008, per Nielsen. Through the first 11 months of 2009, Aflac spent $60 million. Those figures do not include online spending.

Last April, Aflac introduced a smaller integrated educational effort dubbed “Get the Aflacts,” from KTG, which was the impetus for the current pitch. Charney said testing results — the positive response from the company’s 75,000 agents and a 40 percent spike in traffic to Aflac’s Web site — led him to call a two-and-a-half day meeting with all eight of KTG’s marketing communications partners to figure out how to take that idea “to the next level.”

While “You don’t know quack” will remain the brand’s positioning going forward, the company will continue to use the tag, “We’ve got you under our wing,” which replaced “Ask about it at work” in the “Get the Aflacts” campaign.

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