Tuesday, September 10, 2002

AFLAC squawks over 'Taft Quack' ads


Company complains to Democratic candidate

By Spencer Hunt shunt@enquirer.com
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS - An insurance company that uses a talking duck to sell its health plan is squawking over Internet ads by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan.

        Lawyers for American Family Life Assurance Company wrote Mr. Hagan a letter last week saying his “TaftQuack” character is too similar to its corporate mascot, the AFLAC duck.

        The animated waterfowl shouts out “AFLAC!” the Georgia-based company's acronym, in television commercials. Mr. Hagan's ads at www.taftquack.com feature Gov. Bob Taft's face, sporting an orange bill instead of a nose, on the body of a white duck. The bird shouts “Taft quack!” several times in two ads - one of which was unveiled this morning.

        “They're concerned that the duck looks like the AFLAC duck, and about its (white) color,” said Jerry Austin, Mr. Hagan's campaign manager. “They say "Taft quack' sounds like AFLAC.”

        Mr. Austin said the campaign never intended to violate trademark or copyright laws and that he's willing to make changes to satisfy the company. Kathelen Spencer, a company spokeswoman, said the company is concerned about protecting its investment in its brand name.

        “The AFLAC duck was created with the sole purpose of selling insurance, not to help or hurt a political candidate,” Ms. Spencer said.

        She acknowledged that news of her company's concerns, which the campaign announced Monday, would spur more people to visit Mr. Hagan's Web site.

        “We've not sought to make this public, but we're certainly willing to do what's required to protect our brand name,” Ms. Spencer said.

        With only $1 for every $14 Mr. Taft can spend on his campaign, Mr. Hagan decided last month to forgo television ads. He instead offers two ads at the Web site.

        The first ad is Mr. Hagan's rebuttal to a commercial Mr. Taft is airing. The second, unveiled today, features the TaftQuack character “ducking” questions.

       



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