Sunday, August 03, 2008

Deadeye Duck! AFLAC spokesbird shoots down hostile Chief Marketing Officer

Back in February of last year, I did a cranky rant called The tale of the duck and the dumbbell” about Jeffrey Herbert. He was the CMO (that’s corporate jargon for “Chief Marketing Officer”) who had just arrived at his job at the AFLAC insurance giant and announced he was going to do in the duck.

Wing-clipping, down-sizing,
seat-busting threats

Well, maybe that reference to "do in" is a bit extreme. Actually, various press reports had Herbert plotting to “downsize” the duck, "clip its wings" and make it "take a backseat." My own cranky blog piece, comparing Jeff Herbert to Elmer Fudd, stated:

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.
In keeping with The New York Crank’s editorial policy of calling an imbecile an imbecile, we crankily reminded the high mucky-mucks of advertising:
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.
Did Herbert listen? Well, maybe halfway. While the duck never entirely went away, he was upstaged for quite some time by a billy goat who said “naaa” when asked if he enjoyed the kind of insurance benefits AFLAC afforded. (Get it, get it?)

Ducks and goats
quacking and sacking

Little by little over the past few months, I became aware that the billy goat was gone from AFLAC advertising, leaving only the duck to do the spokes-quacking. What was going on here?

A little research provided the answer. In trying to fix what wasn’t broken, CMO Jeff Herbert in less than a year on the job got his career at AFLAC quacked. Oh very well then, croaked. The official word was that he “resigned.” Isn’t that almost always the official word?

All this is proof again that if you try to bury a TV advertising symbol that has made 85% of the public aware of your brand under a dumb media plan that uses billboard advertising and TV billy goats, management will eventually take you for the expendable jackass you are.

I have only one thing to say to the person at AFLAC who made the decision: Good for you, ducky!

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