Market Research Tips - 5 Things You Must Never Do In Ads

Consumers Are Ignoring Aflac's Next Day Pay Ad

Walk this way…to a better print ad. Getty Images | Image Source Collection

Aflac has been the world's go-to duck for decades.  Rather, Aflac has been one of the premier go-to insurance agencies. Here's the lowdown on the history of Aflac.

The How of the Company

Three brothers named John, Paul, (no not, Ringo)…Bill decided to start an insurance company that could provide financial protection for Americans when an accident or illness strikes. Although they were not insurance experts – or maybe because they were not insurance experts – they made a commitment to support policyholders when they were faced with dealing with a medical situation.

  So, together, they created the American Family Life Insurance Company, which was revised later to American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.  To the world, the company is known as Aflac

The Why of the Duck

There really is not an exact answer for "Why the duck?"  ​The best guess is that a duck's quack can sound like "aflac" - if you squint your eyes.  Hazarding another guess, ducks are funny, in a way.  Think: Daffy Duck or Donald Duck or even Duck Soup. So although the Aflac duck's antics are limited, the first ad (park bench) was aired in 2000 and was apparently sufficiently engaging to cause the company to create more ads with ducks. The duck endured, waddling its way into consumers'  hearts, and by 2005, Aflac changed its logo to include the Aflac Duck.

The Why of the Ad

In the January 2015 issue of Martha Steward Living magazine, Aflac ran a print ad that is a bit of a conundrum.

The reason for the ad is apparent: Aflac is introducing Next Day Pay (only from Aflac) with is a new feature of the SmartClaim.

The bolded all capital header on the ad reads: "AFLAC CAN PAY YOUR CLAIM THE NEXT DAY."

The disclaimer at the bottom of the ad (written in tiny disclaimer font, of course) reads: *For most properly documented claims.

 Not available on the following: Short Term Disability (excluding Accident and Sickness Riders), Life, Vision, Dental, Medicare Supplement, Long Term Care / Home Health Care and Aflac Plus Rider. Individual Company Statistic, 2014. 

Oh.  That's a long list of exceptions.

And this isn't really even the interesting part of the ad, given that the format is typical of insurance companies and asset management companies and banks, and…. Consumers are all pretty much used to this type of BIG PROMISE against teensy-tiny disclaimer language. 

The "What You Say" of the Ad

15 lines of blue text explain in droll language why targeted consumers will like this new claim feature. The ad content is meant to be humorous.  Anyone reading the ad can tell it is meant to be humorous because of phrases like: 

"'re no prospector who's totally desperate, with an unruly mule and a mouth untouched by modern dentistry..."


"...your darn mule starts to think you're crazy..."

See.  Funny, right? 

Will the target segment for the ad recognize themselves?  Only if they like to be known as

"...a savvy young couple who showers regularly..."

And not confuse themselves with 

those two crusty, old timer prospectors and their mule, who is looking' at you funnier than ever now

Of course, if your concern is that 

you get your claim paid quicker than swattin' a fly

You might not notice that the entire ad seems as though it was written by a couple of Gen-Y TV sit-com writers who have been drinking a bit too heavily in advance of their 6:00 a.m. deadline for an episode plot revision.  

The Who of the Ad

Undoubtedly the ad writers were themselves entertained, but where is the audience?  

One wonders: Is this print ad worse (from marketing and brand perspectives) than McDonald's billboard (we feel for you, America) campaign?

Or worse than McDonald's market-speak spiel to explain the odd billboard campaign?