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How Aflac Is Rethinking the Duck, and Pausing Humor During Covid

Brand chief Shannon Watkins on shifting the ad strategy to be known well, not just well known

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In this week's episode of On Brand, we speak with Shannon Watkins, SVP of brand and the Aflac Studio (IHA) at Aflac. Shannon tells us how the company has been pivoting during Covid to focus on people's needs, rather than on its traditional humor, and how Aflac had been evolving the role of its iconic duck mascot well before the pandemic hit. She also discusses WFH, her company's longtime commitment to diversity, and working in the creative hotbed of Atlanta.


• 1:14 - How WFH is going for Shannon and her team.
• 3:54 - What Aflac's creative work has looked like during Covid.
• 5:53 - Changing the role of the duck from comedian to helpmate.
• 7:46 - A look at the "Aflac Isn't" campaign and the company's effort to clarify just what it offers consumers.
• 10:27 - Why Aflac sponsored the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball, and what it sees in music partnerships.
• 13:14 - Aflac's deep connection to sports, and a look at its spots with Nick Saban.
• 16:20 - How the brand is thinking about pro sports coming this fall.
• 17:37 - What Aflac is doing around racial equality these days.
• 20:07 - How the company works with outside creative partners.
• 23:14 - Thoughts on being in the creative hotbed of Atlanta.
• 25:37 - What the next 6-12 months might look like for Aflac.

New episodes of On Brand roll out every Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Each week, Clio president Nicole Purcell and I chat with top brand marketers—most of whom are still working from home—about the value and effectiveness of creativity, what they want from their agency and solution partners, how they're shepherding their brands through Covid and beyond, and more.

See all the episodes here.

If you're a brand marketer who'd like to take part in the series, please get in touch.

Brand Text
Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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