New Aflac TV commercial pairs duck with Food Network star Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri, the outspoken and bleached blond Food Network star, is stepping into the world of the Aflac duck to spice things up in a new commercial that debuts today nationwide.

The 30-second ad, titled “Spicy,” will air on more than 20 broadcast and cable networks through the end of November. That compares to only a handful of networks for most Aflac ads aired in the past.

“We really feel this commercial is going to be strong, so it has a very heavy media schedule,” said Jeff Charney, Aflac senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “With Guy at the peak of his career, and the barbecue season kind of happening and leading into college football, we think we have a shot at one of the best commercials we’ve ever done.”

This is the 51st commercial in the series featuring the duck in humorous and interesting situations.

It shows the spike-haired Fieri grilling burgers, kabobs and vegetables in a back yard with friends. In one scene after another, the duck burns his beak on a hot grilled pepper, steps on a scorching griddle, hops down the length of a table, then sticks his head in a jar of flamin’ jalapenos.

“Always gettin’ attention,” says a smiling Fieri of the duck before informing viewers that Aflac pays its supplemental insurance policyholders cash fast for things that routine medical insurers does not, like rent, car payments and groceries.

The commercial closes with the duck passing out after seeing a plump and plucked fowl roasting on a spit and Fieri’s punch line, “Get up, it’s chicken.”

The kicker to Fieri’s appearance in the ad is that the California-based chef and TV star is a client of Aflac, which insures more than 50 million people worldwide. The U.S. and Japan are the Columbus-based company’s primary markets.

“He actually talked to us about a claim and how pleased he was with our customer service, so that was kind of nice,” said Aflac spokeswoman Laura Kane. “Actually, his hair dresser has it, too.”

Charney said Aflac and its advertising agency, Digitas, considered several Food Network stars for the commercial, including Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Michael Simon. But the quirky Fieri, an acquired taste for some food fans, best represented the company.

“He’s getting very, very popular right now,” Charney said. “And we felt that the chemistry between the duck and Guy Fieri would be good. When we got the commercial we were really, really pleased.”

The tattooed, wristband-wearing and chronically joking Fieri has rapidly ascended as a celebrity since making his debut in 2006 in “Guy’s Big Bite” on the Food Network.

He followed that program with the popular “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Ultimate Recipe Showdown.” The restaurant owner and author also launched the NBC game show, “Minute To Win It,” earlier this year.

“He’s got enormous likability,” Charney said of Fieri. “But, in fact, he’s different. He’s not your typical person you probably associate with the Aflac duck.”

What the Food Network star does bring to the table, Charney said, is that men, women and kids all relate to him, just as they do with the duck and its escapades.

There’s also a matter of “relevance” for a mature advertising campaign in a very cluttered world. Aflac needed someone — in this case a loud and colorful pitchman — to help the duck stand out from the marketing noise.

“Some fun things we’re doing with this commercial, too, is social media,” Kane said. “I just heard from Guy’s people and he’s going to start tweeting about it and he’s going to give his fans a heads up on the commercial. And he’ll have it on his home page. That’s fun that we’re getting to expand into his brand that way.”

Aflac has high hopes for the “Spicy” ad, Charney said, particularly since the firm has been on a roll this year. Its commercial tied to this summer’s release of “Toy Story 3” was the “right message at the right place at the right time,” he said, ending up the No. 2 ad in the nation at that moment, second only to a Target commercial on ABC’s finale of “Lost.”

Said Charney: “Realistically, for a company out of Columbus, Georgia, to have the number two commercial in the country out of all of these advertising people, it was pretty exciting for us.”

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