There is no more “Madison Avenue.” The street exists, but most of the New York ad agencies were driven off that street long ago by high rent and earnings pressure from the adglomerates that own them. This changed the focus of advertising agencies from their product, the advertising, to their bottom line.
That’s part of the reason why it’s rare these days to have an advertising campaign as great as those created in the golden days of advertising, circa 1960s and 1970s. One exception has been AFLAC and its hyperactive duck.
Created by the Kaplan Thaler advertising agency on Eighth Avenue, the AFLAC duck’s series of misadventures were the kind of commercials you’d stay up late to watch over and over again. Little wonder that the AFLAC Duck created 85 percent brand awareness in the last five years, a result that Advertising Age, the leading publication of the advertising business, calls “phenomenal.” http://adage.com/article?article_id=115039
So what happened? Along comes Jeff Herbert. (His picture is above; in case you haven't figured it out he's the one who's not the Duck.) Jeff Herbert’s title is CMO of AFLAC. That’s Chief Marketing Officer to you. But what he really is, is Elmer Fudd out to shoot a Duck instead of a Wabbit.
Y’see, in violation of the late David Ogilvy’s rule that “the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife,” Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Herbert-Fudd has decided that a moron is exactly what you and your wife are.
According to Advertising Age, “’Our industry is a difficult one for the average consumer to understand,’ Mr. Herbert said. ‘We want to move our brand from being known to owned.’ And that means new creative, new products and a rethinking of the media plan.”
In short, CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd plans to kill the Duck. Or at least roast its hiney to an unrecognizable crisp.
Well, if CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd really wants to explain the industry to consumers, which I somehow doubt, there’s no better teacher than the duck. Turn the Duck on and consumers turn on and pay attention. Turn the Duck off and almost guaranteed you’ll have a boring piece of crap advertising.
AFLAC could use the duck in direct mail. Hell, I might read a letter signed by the AFLAC Duck even though I know it’s a sendup. I’d certainly read a brochure in which the Duck walks me through all those new products AFLAC is cooking up to take my money, and explains why I need them and the benefits they'll bring to my life.
Alas! According to what Advertising Age learned, we’re going to have billboards instead, presumably ugly and duck-free billboards. Since billboards rarely contain more than six words, I doubt they'll be able to tell you much about anything.
Consider: AFLAC could create awareness of all those great products CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd is cooking up in his marketing kitchen just by having the Duck explain them on television. But no.
CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd, like another dodo named George Bush, can’t get the first rule of success through his head: "If it ain’t busted, don’t fix it." Ignoring the rule is how we got into Iraq. It's also how CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd is going to shoot down the most successful advertising symbol in decades and help send the company into a tailspin.
Which will probably mean that CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd will go down in marketing, advertising and AFLAC history as the goose who smashed the golden egg.