Dan McKeagueThere’s a new voice quacking up a storm as the Aflac Duck!

After a month of searching that yielded 12,500 live and online auditions, Aflac has found their new voice and chosen a Minnesota-based, married father of three to replace comedian Gilbert Gottfried.
How did this all transpire?
Hear more about how Dan McKeague got the gig in today’s VOX Daily!


If you’ve been following the Aflac voiceover saga, you know that it all started when some offensive comments on Twitter were made by former Aflac Duck voice, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, concerning the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011.
Aflac does a significant amount of their business in Japan and the insurance company decided that dismissing Gottfried in response to his insensitive remarks was necessary as it would appear out of respect for their Japanese customers.

Once Gottfried had lost his gig as the duck, a month long search got under way to find a replacement with the winner being announced on Tuesday April 26th, 2011. With over 12,000 auditions, some of which were submitted by voice over talent listed at Voices.com, Aflac had quite the task ahead of them. The winning candidate is Dan McKeague, a sales manager for radio stations KQRS and Love 105 in Minneapolis who also has local voice over experience.

Here’s a video featuring an interview with Dan McKeague that aired recently on Fox:
Watch the latest video at video.foxbusiness.com
The brass at Aflac chose McKeague from a select pool of voice talent who had made it to the finals so to speak.

“We were tremendously impressed with the wealth of talent who applied for this job. Dan impressed us with his vocal range and acting ability,” Michael Zuna, Aflac senior vice president and chief brand officer said.

According to sources, McKeague earned $100,000 upfront for the work and stands to enjoy substantial royalties each year. McKeague won’t be giving up his day job however.
In addition to his work at the radio station, McKeague also helps run a local charity that provides safe havens for kids from broken homes, reports NYPost.com.

“I have long admired people who can act and make the most of their voice,” McKeague said. “I understand what’s at stake. It is not just getting behind a microphone and screaming ‘Aflac.’ If you’re a spokesperson, you have responsibilities.”

What’s The Big Deal About the Duck?

Aflac DuckThe Chicago Tribune reports that the Aflac Duck has helped increase the company’s brand recognition from slightly more than 10 percent to an amazing 93 percent since the duck’s initial broadcast debut in 2000.

As I mentioned earlier, a significant percentage of Aflac’s business comes from customers in Japan. A few sources I checked suggest that the percentage is roughly 75 percent so you can imagine how that fact made the need to find a new quacker-in-residence even more dire.
The duck also is a recognizable icon in terms of the company’s philanthropic endeavours.
Needless to say the Aflac duck is a huge asset for Aflac, and as it would seem, a great boon to McKeague and his family.

What Do You Think?

Aflac is certainly not the first company to hold public auditions to find someone to record for their company. In recent months, TomTom also held open auditions to find a new voice for their satellite navigation systems and rewarded the winning talent with a car.
What do you think of these public casting calls?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Looking forward to your reply,
Image of Dan McKeague via People.com

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Hello Stephanie,
    I think it’s great to hold public auditions. Doing so gives voice talent across the spectrum a chance to win the part, who would not have had the chance otherwise. Big, widely known, companies like Aflac usually go for big, widely known, celebrity talent. Auditioning for gigs like this is fun, even though ones chance of winning is like winning the jack-pot in a lottery.
    I entered the Aflac audition, and had a ball doing it, even though I knew the odds of not winning were huge. On occasion I will also purchase a lottery ticket. But hey, if you don’t play in the game, it is 100 % certain you’re not going to win. Buy the way, I received a nice letter from Aflac thanking me for entering the contest, suitable for framing :). Now, how many letters of gratitude, for auditioning, do talent usually get from producers anyway? I’ll bet not many. So at least I have a souvenir indicating I gave it a shot.
    My congratulations to Dan McKeague. May this great gig bring you all the happiness it has to offer.

  2. I think I read that there were 12,000 applicants, so odds were considerably better than winning the lottery! Still, it’s great that it turned that much media focus on the voice over industry for a month (I actually think they could have milked it a little more by posting finalists and having a vote cast – even if their winner would ultimately be chosen by them – but that’s just me!).
    I auditioned, too, on the off chance they wanted to go female this time around. So now, I have a video and a topic that’s hot – what to do? Hit delete and move it off my hard drive, or put it to good use for myself? Dan’s getting some great promo right now, but so can everyone else. It’s not about the “job”, it’s about the big picture. Ask yourself what you can do today to move yourself toward your own $100K gig (and can that AFLAC audition help)?
    So, video sharing, press release, and blog writing about the experience – here I come! 🙂 And congratulations to Dan!

  3. This was a brilliant publicity stunt, if you look at it from AFLAC’s standpoint. Does it help the voiceover industry to have big contests for gigs? I wonder. Does “Last Comic Standing” help the comedy world? Does “Celebrity Apprentice” spur entrepreneurial spirit? It’s no surprise that Dan McKeague was fresh scrubbed, camera ready, father of three from the Midwest. Dan was an easy sell to middle America and the media. My guess is that Mr. McKeague passed the sniff test with corporate on a LOT of different criteria other than his excellent quackery. AFLAC was trying to repair it’s image after Gilbert Gottfried’s insensitive humor tarnished the brand. There were also thousands of extremely talented, experienced, trained actors who auditioned. When I auditioned, the names on the list were a who’s who of cartoon voice royalty. I could hear their FANATSTIC auditions through the wall. In fact when I left the building, after stinking up the room with an AWFUL audition, there were actual ducks circling the building. (undoubtedly attracted by the AMAZINGLY real Duck Sound auditions…..ok I made that up 🙂
    The AFLAC Duck selection process was a brilliant campaign for AFLAC. For the Voice Acting community, it may have further perpetuated the myth that if you do funny voices you too can have a career in VO. I wish Dan McKeague well…and I hope he get’s to do the Duck for years! Better yet I hope he hones his craft and gets the skills to have a varied and wonderful career in VO. (insert audio of Dan quacking all the way to the bank!)

  4. Hi, Stephanie:
    As one of the gaggle of 12,500 folks who auditioned for the Aflac duck gig, I too, am a fan of public auditions. Sadly, I never saw the Aflac audition come across via your website. I had to find it via Aflac’s website.
    I’d certainly like to see more of these, where anyone can take a shot at a national advertising opportunity like Aflac!
    Cheers! (Quack!)
    Michael Miro

  5. Thank you all for commenting!
    Michael, to address what you said, it would be wonderful to see this sort of thing go through Voices.com in the future. I think Aflac wanted to treat this as a job and not just a one-off so they invested a lot of time and effort into the process. They also did everything on their own terms which for a publicity stunt (which this could be perceived to be), is next to crucial in order for them to maintain some kind of control over the contest and subsequent casting.
    What a neat thing to observe though, eh?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  6. Congratulations to Dan McKeague. Public casting calls are an interesting idea, and a great marketing tool, as others have already mentioned.
    The concern I have is, with a huge number of auditions, who is conducting the first round of review? It’s hard to believe that the casting director is listening to almost 13,000 auditions.
    So who are these first ‘screeners’, interns? How many good auditions didn’t make through because they didn’t catch the (relatively) inexperienced ear of that first listener? Would that necessitate a video audition so as to also engage the eye (and short attention span) of the interns?
    Hopefully, if a public casting is held, there are veteran ears listening at all levels of the process.

  7. This was a great opportunity for all Voice Over actors…to give them a chance to possibly get a national gig. Kudos Aflac!

  8. Typical Corporate mentality that one must stick with the same thing, expencting the same kind of results. Couldn’t try a dog, cat, tucan, or water buffalo could they? What a world, corporate grey, lovely.
    Ok, ok, every actor knows that cattle calls are not the first option when auditioning. So, I think it’s a stupid idea, mmmk?

  9. Nothing wrong with an open casting call. And it did more to raise Aflac’s profile than their commercials ever did. It also took any germ of negative attention off of Gilbert’s firing, and spun it into a warm, fuzzy, “anybody can win” Cinderella story.
    And congratulations to Dan McKeague!

  10. I’m just really thankful Aflac is the kind of company who cares about doing right. When an employee was insensitive, they took care of it immediately, and gave someone else a chance. Hats off to them.
    My dd is a vocal artist http://www.reallyrachel.com so anytime a new voice gets a listen, I’m all for it!

  11. Congrats to Dan McKeague,…all of us who entered were hoping that it would have been us,…I’d be intrigued to know who the final 5, or 10, were,…even that would be quite a feather (!) in one’s cap!

  12. I think his audition was a blast. I also auditioned….would have liked to have known how I stacked up, but with 12,500…understandably that wasn’t possible. Still, my father responded to a Regis & Kelly (or was it Kathie Lee in ’93…) competition by Bloch Pharmaceuticals for a spokesperson for Super Poli-Grip. He ended up being one of the two finalists, went to New York and won the competition online, and did have ads that ran nationally at least for a year or so. So, I know it can happen! He had a background in television and commercials from his days at WCIA and WICD-TV in Champaign, IL. Anyway, it was fun to at least have the opportunity.

  13. Guess I’ll be the minority vote here and say I’m not a fan of huge public auditions like this. 12,000+ people auditioning for one role is just insane. It’s the job of casting directors and agents to help narrow the field a little bit, and castings like this undermine those jobs – not to mention how they support the fallacy that voiceover is “easy” and anyone can do it. It’s a tough rollercoaster business. Not everyone can sustain their voice and the effort and feeling required to evoke what is needed.
    To me, a huge casting like Aflac’s means the client doesn’t really know what it wants; the “they’ll know it when they hear it” approach. Supposedly.
    Seems like a colossal waste of time involving so many people in the process. The gimmick of it is lost on me.

  14. I too was one of the 12,500 or so that auditioned and I thought this to be a great opportunity (one of the many new outlets that the Internet has offered to voice actors!)
    While it was disappointing to not be chosen, I wish Mr. McKeague the very best of success!
    I’m proud to be associated with this business.

  15. This is too funny, as Ed could use the same language for auditioning endlessly on voices.com:
    “To me, a huge casting like Aflac’s means the client doesn’t really know what it wants; the “they’ll know it when they hear it” approach. Supposedly.
    Seems like a colossal waste of time involving so many people in the process. The gimmick of it is lost on me.”
    Ed, you are being rational about all of this and that’s wrong. It was a brilliant marketing communications, product placement and brand awareness stunt, after the former duck’s voice literally embarrassed the Company (ala Geico’s guy) and tossed away six-figures a year in the process.
    What do you think that appearance on Fox was worth in terms of AVE (ad value equivalency)? That one appearance took care of his fee: “According to sources, McKeague earned $100,000 upfront for the work and stands to enjoy substantial royalties each year.”
    Do the job, only open your mouth to say “Aflac!” graciously accept your fee and . . . smile. Like a professional.
    The new guy is fine. The ad agency’s stunning actions, in cooperation with the client, will become a marketing communications case history in business school. The stock is up, everyone’s happy, except for Gilbert Got-Fried, who probably still believes that “Aflac just couldn’t take a joke.”
    I can assure you, new duck-voice Dan McKeague and legions of lawyers from Aflac had the “big talk” before presenting him with a contract. Especially the morals clause. Big one.


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