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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Powers of De-Ducktion

In the wake of Gilbert Gottfried's ill-conceived return to relevance by way of insensitive tsunami tweets (does anyone else find it funny that making birdly-named noises stripped Gottfried of his job as a professional bird noise maker?), a few things remain to be seen.

1. Will Gilbert Gottfried be relevant again?
2. Who will become the voice of the Aflac duck now that Gilbert's duck duck goose is cooked?

Number 1 will take some time to answer, and possible media coaching from Chris Brown's team of image revamp wizards. I say that to support my point that while completely not cool, I don't think Gottfried's twitter behavior is surprising, and he joins a long list of celebrities whose ability to instantly share their thoughts (irony of blogging about this noted!) without first vetting them through their PR rep has done some bad things for them or their images or careers or all of the above. It's a risk to give a comedian primarily known for brash annoyance - vocal and otherwise - a means to reach the masses and expect sensitivity. I used a Chris Brown reference here to show I am not immune from temptation of talking about what's hot now, and nearly every single person I know who uses facebook to try to be even remotely funny had a Chris Brown comment or joke about his violence yesterday, one way or another, but nonetheless condemning him, all. Sure, while Chris Brown is a personal train wreck who is in no way on par with a devastating natural disaster affecting an entire nation (though I will say the fact that he's even still on television says something bad about our society's tolerance for violence against women), he is still what's being tweeted about or status updated, etc., because he is the disaster de jour. So, while not awesome, and totally not great for his relationship with a company that does a lot of business in Japan, I don't think Gottfried making tsunami jokes was all that shocking. Please know that yes- I do think he should have been fired, and yes - I do think tsunami jokes are tasteless, but I'm just noting the fact that he did what he does - make jokes from headlines. And whoops, doing so in this scenario turned him into one.

That turned into more of an aside than I had planned! And with a lot of circuitous logic, to boot.
What I really was hoping to do was make a list of top replacement duck voices for Aflac to consider.

QUACKPOT SCHEMES - My Brainstormed List of Top Ten Eligible Duck Voices

10. The guy who is the voice of Smuckers jams and jellies
A complete role reversal for the duck, suddenly that smooth country sound you hear that reminds you of jam is a frazzled bird, trying to let you know you're covered - even smothered, in insurance. Especially good if something unforeseen happens and you end up in a jam (get it!) Actually, now that I think of it, having known, famous spokespeople have a go at being the duck would be a pretty funny rebuttal and ad campaign that would make lemonade out of the lousy story that was the Gottfried jokes. Auditioning new ducks, with no one being neurotic enough - a premise that quacks me up. Aflac, call me! And the Geico cavemen. We're going to need them...

9. Fran Drescher
The female equivalent of Gottfried in voice annoyance used for "comedic" effect. A fun spin on the duck's nasally frustrated outbursts, perhaps.

8. Morgan Freeman
I mean, again, this guy makes anything sound good. But I'd made this whole list before I cam up with the new "the ad campaign is using well known voices to fail at being a highly frustrated duck" idea. I'd save Morgan for that.

7. Andy Rooney
He kind of sounds like the Aflac duck sometimes, depending on how fired up he is about whatever he's talking about. They definitely share a ruffled feathers approach, and appearance, with his still-lustrous white feathers on top.

6. Joan Rivers
The joke here would be that they'd be casting someone who notoriously pisses people off with her jokes. And has a distinct voice.

5. Carlos Alazraqui
Though the voice of many things, perhaps hilarious to have the Taco Bell dog's voice come out of a duck's mouth. Again, think this would also fall under the #10 ad campaign...

4. Voices from the show "Ducktales" (Ooo-OOO-Ooo!)
Best duck voices I can think of in modern day cartoon work. And one heck of a theme song.

3. Mindy Kaling or Aziz Ansari
I know this seems like I'm racially profiling two very funny Indian-American comedians, but I'm profilng them for character work, not ethnicity. Really. You would not be able to tell a voice's ethnicity from a duck, right? Both Kaling and Ansari are expert at being self-assured and highly annoyed as their characters on The Office and Parks and Recreation, respectively, which the Aflac duck is as his attempts to save people money are repeatedly stymied by physical obstacles and misfortunes that befall him. Either of these actors could bring some sly wit to the part and have the duck be annoyed at the customers' inability to see the savings they'd get, not just at the bad luck that befalls them as they try to spread the gospel of Aflac.

2. A Japanese voice - now just as I spent a good bit of time in #3 describing how I was not making this a race issue, allow me to make this a race issue. Seriously though, maybe one-up Gottfried and show support for the resilience of Japan by having the duck be bad-ass. I think this would be awesome. Though obviously might take some time and test-audience work to be sure it walks the fine line of tasteful and respectful not crappy and reductionist, or unduly cheery in the face of devastation.

1. Again, with a nod to acknowledging that racism is bad and that I'm merely suggesting turning the tables on an insensitive situation by using that insensitivity as a weapon in return, have a commercial in which, in a very obvious model city from horror movies of old, Godzilla eats/eliminates the Aflac duck out of revenge. Show a duckling or the new adult duck in another part of the city commenting on something like "guess we're done with him," which both introduces the new voice of the duck/personality of the replacement duck, and gives good riddance to the Gottfried-legacy Aflac duck. A clean slate, a controversial comeback, and a new brand identity built on the old, all in one!

Ok, I still might like the one where they audition folks...we'll see!

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