Wanda Sykes Suits Up With the Aflac Duck for March Madness

Time magically stops in the 'Pre-Pain Show'

Wanda Sykes brings her sassy comic style to Aflac ahead of March Madness, joining actor Lil Rel Howery and a certain duck for a series of "Pre-Pain Show" commercials created by DDB New York.

From a TV sports-desk set, the trio provide play-by-play commentary on average Joes doing average if ill-considered stuff—like climbing a rickety shelf in the garage and partying with a piñata (look out for that bat!). Naturally, their actions lead to unexpected injuries.

In a neat bit of visual trickery, the scenes freeze, leaving their subjects suspended in space and time just before the moment of pain. They briefly chat with Wanda and Howery, who assure them that supplementary insurance from Aflac will cover their resulting medical bills.

That's when the temporal flow resumes, and the big hurt arrives:

Aflac | Shelf Loathing
Aflac | Piñat-ah!

Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlan of Arts & Sciences, the imps behind Puppy Monkey Baby's return for MTN Dew, directed. For Aflac, they build on the company's 2021 NCAA tie-in, which teamed Howery with actor Rob Riggle (and the duck) at the desk.

"The latest work is an evolution of last year," DDB group creative director Ross Sanders tells Muse. "But where the 'Post-Pain Show' focused on the 'pain after the pain' of unexpected bills, this year's campaign focuses on the moment just before you get hurt and how Aflac can make that hurt, hurt less."

Wanda's always a sure bet, and her appealing presence provides an extra something special.

"When it comes to insurance, people are tired of feeling like they don't know what they're getting," says DDB executive creative director Paulo Junger. "Wanda's a great antidote to that feeling. Her direct style makes you feel like you're getting the real facts."

In a statement, the comedian says, "Medical debt, health and wealth disparities don't discriminate. Many Americans are one step away from a medical incident that could easily lead to financial ruin. I am proud to partner with Aflac to shine a light on critical issues impacting communities across this country—and to serve as Aflac's first LGBTQ+ woman of color to anchor a national campaign."

And if you're guessing CGI delivered those impressive freezes, think again.

"For the most part, the effects are all practical, with only a minimal amount of VFX to knit things together," says Junger. "When you see a guy floating in the air mid-fall, that's a guy in a rig made to look like he's floating."

Adds Saunders: "We wanted the spots to take place in that moment when you know you're in big trouble, but it's already too late to stop—like a sort of like a mini-version of your life flashing before your eyes. In that moment, will you feel regret that you didn't prepare for financial hurt that comes after your injury? Or will you be able to bear that pain a little easier because you have Aflac?"

These :15s drop that gimmick, but they're still funny:

Aflac | Wins
Aflac | Protector

Finally, Howery solos in "Rel Talk" messages that tout colon cancer screenings:

Aflac | That's Rel Talk

The push includes digital, TV, social and OOH elements, plus live event activations at the Men's Final Four Fan Fest, the Women's Final Four, a Student-Athlete Experience, and trip giveaways.


Chief Brand & Marketing Officer: Shannon Watkins
President: Theresa White
VP Consumer, Brand & Creative Services: Garth Knutson
VP, Constituent Marketing: Joshua Ball
Sr. Brand Manager, Content, Brand & Creative Services: Kaci Stewart
Brand Coordinator, Content, Brand & Creative Services: Alex Travis
Brand Manager, Consumer/D2C: Paola Dunway
Sr. Brand Manager, Experiential/Sponsorships: Michelle McMullin
Brand Manager, Experiential/Sponsorships: Sean Kelly
Sr. Brand Manager, Connections: Mallory Hartline
Brand Manager, Social Media: Tod Meisner
Brand Coordinato, Kendra Freeman
Brand Coordinator, Connections: Madison Montgomery
Brand Manager, Brand Strategy, Insights & Advertising: Lisa Malone
Sr. Manager, Earned Media: Amy Persons
Strategy Consultant, Brand Positioning Doctors Managing Partner: Darryl Cobbin

DDB New York
Chief Creative Officer, DDB Worldwide: Ari Weiss
Chief Creative Officer, DDB NY: Mat Bisher
Executive Creative Director: Paulo Junger
Group Creative Director: Ross Saunders
Creative Director: Josh DiMarcantonio
Creative Director: Eric Stevens
Sr. Art Director: Zack Fagin
President: Darla Price
Head of Production: Teri Altman
Executive Producer: Jill Meschino
Executive Producer (Integrated): Omkar Palekar
Associate Producer: Yamoaa Gyimah
Director of Business Affairs: Kelly McCann
Executive Director, Business Leadership: Jeff Prince
Group Business Director: Reginald Osborne
Account Director: Lynn Tran
Account Supervisor: Emma Matthys
Strategy Director: Kelsey Ellefson
Senior Strategist: Alex Danks
Director of Business Operations: Zsuzsanna Simon
Senior Project Manager: Ingrid Wong


Arts & Sciences 
Directors:  Adam & Dave
Managing Partner / Executive Producer:  Marc Marrie 
Producer: Patrick Harris 
Head of Production: Milena Milicevic
Executive Producer/Director of Production: Christa Skotland

Editor: David Koza
Executive Producer: Gina Pagano

Sonic Union

Original Music: JSM
Audio Post Production: Sonic Union
Sound Designer/Mix Engineer: Steve Rosen 

Executive Producer: Heino Henning 
VFX Supervisor: Martin Lazaro 
VFX Producer:  Michael Brown Sr.

Media: Spark Foundry
SVP, Group Director: Mitch Sheiner
Connections Director: Tara Dowling
Video Director: Jeff Shelton
Connections Manager: Natalie Zimmerman
Video Associate Director: Claire Caposello
Video Manager: Adam Platt
Social Creative & Media: Dagger
Chief Creative Officer: Al Patton
Chief Strategy Officer: Carla Guy
Creative Director: Brandon Hampton
Creative Director: Melissa Withorn
Senior Copywriter: Ransom Haywood
Senior Art Director: Martin Wysor
Copywriter: Emily Turner
Executive Producer: Todd Johnson
Senior Producer: Adina Hilton
Strategy Director: Jessica Neville
Senior Strategist: Kelly Taylor
Media Director: Maddy Duyck
Senior Media Manager: Skylar Sperin
Social Engagement Coordinator: Tristan Watson
VP, Client Partnership: Vince Scicchitano
Director, Client Delivery: Kristin Richards
Supervisor, Client Delivery: Lauren Herle
Coordinator, Client Partnership: Sarah Kuhn

Dagger Production Crew:
Director: Chris Cella
Production Manager: Adrian Schwarz
Post-Production Supervisor: Mitchell Hardage
Senior 3D Motion Graphics Artist: Daniel Barnes
Video Editor & Motion Graphics Manager: Cory DiMino
Content Creator: Brittany Lazaroff

Sponsorship and Talent Relations: Creative Artists Agency
CAA Brand Consulting:  Jocelyn Monroe, Brian Loftus, Mallory Shickora, Stasia Foster

Experiential: MELT
Chief Creative Director: David Culbertson
Account Director: Darbi Lou Cone
Director of Production: Dave Hammock

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