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They're quacking to be new Aflac duck

By Michelle Hiskey, Special to CNN
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The search for the next Aflac duck
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hundreds of people are quacking their hearts out in auditions to be the Aflac duck
  • They're quacking like ducks in love, answering the phone or getting bad news
  • Winner gets a six-figure salary and benefits for their quacking perfection
  • New duck replaces comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who was fired for tweets about Japan
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Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Tired of all the squawking about America's unemployment? Try out for a job as a corporate duck.

People are lining up in six major cities to audition Monday and Tuesday to be the next quacksperson for the insurance company Aflac.

The scene in Atlanta was like the duck itself: grating, conspicuous, and most of all loud.

"Let me hear a duck skydiving," said casting director Brian Beagle.

"Aflaaaaac!" cried Sandy Smith, 54, of Birmingham, Alabama, in her most terrified duck voice.

One by one, the hopefuls waddled through, putting their ducks in a row as much as one can for a job limited by one bird and his one word.

The contenders were allowed to grunt, groan and mutter, but their only word began with "A" and rhymed with quack.

Gallery: Aflac Duck Voice Auditions

They quacked like Donald. They quacked like Daffy. They quacked shy, shrill, scared and silly.

Recorders rolled as the wannabes channeled their inner ducks to quack like a duck in love ... a duck answering the phone ... a duck singing about being in love ... a duck on a wire ... a duck flying by ... a duck getting bad news ... another duck in love. Ducks fearful and ducks overjoyed.

Traci Naman, 42, of Atlanta didn't wait for a prompt to let loose her quackery.

"I figured he might have an evil twin," she said of the Aflac icon. "And I thought it was time for him to have a girlfriend too."

"Let's hear a conversation between those three," Beagle said. "You're the first person to present multiple ducks!"

The six-figure voice-over job with benefits opened up after Aflac fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried for his fowl, er foul, Twitter comments regarding the Japan earthquake. The comedian later apologized.

Aflac plans to screen about 1,000 live auditions and 12,000 online submissions, with the company's new duck scheduled to quack out a new ad later this month.

The duck, said company spokesman Jon Sullivan, perches high on Aflac's organizational chart.

"Everyone is secondary to the duck because the duck is such an amazing campaign," he said. "In the 10 years we've had the duck, our brand identification has gone from slightly more than 10 percent to 92 percent."

Several wannabes compared the odds of getting the job of official squawker to the odds of winning the lottery.

Naman, an account manager for 14 years and unemployed for two years, felt triumphant simply by auditioning.

"I've sent out applications and gone to job fairs and it's like throwing your resume into a black hole," she said.

"Companies have done a good job of building a wall to keep people out. Just getting this job interview is like winning the lottery."

The long-shot duck gig represented a brass ring to others.

The last interview for Wayne Cobb -- a roofing contractor in Stockbridge, Georgia -- was when he was 18. The 61-year-old contestant calmed his pre-quack jitters by rehearsing in front of his grandchildren with a duck puppet.

"It might sound corny, but this job would let me do some landscaping around my church that we don't have the funding to take care of," he said.

The high stakes prompted Lori A. Preston, 44, to pop peppermints to keep her gullet from quacking hoarse.

After her audition, she admitted her work experience with ducks was limited.

"Other than feed them and seeing the water roll off their back, that's about it," she said. "But they [casting directors] asked me to make the duck my own, and that felt really comfortable."

Each audition lasted only minutes, and almost everyone left smiling.

Leonard Bates, 56, a retired FedEx shipping agent, felt good as he ducked out.

He waved to those in the waiting room and said, "Let the best quacker win."

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