They are some of the most popular and highest profile commercials of the past decade -- the Aflac commercials featuring a duck that constantly quacks "Aflac!" Well, the company has fired the voice of the duck, Gilbert Gottfried, for a series of Tweets about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Over the weekend, Gottfried's tweets included:
Japan called me. They said "maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they're all sinking."
I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said "is there a school in this area." She said "not now, but just wait."
Aflac said it fired Gottfried less than an hour after learning about the Tweets on Monday. In a statement, Michael Zunda, the insurance company's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said:
"Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac.
"Aflac Japan -- and, by extension, Japan itself -- is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times."
Aflac does 75% of its business in Japan. One in four Japanese households buys health insurance from Aflac. Company CEO Daniel Amos flew to Japan on Sunday to show support for the company's employees and agents. It also is donating 100 million yen ($1.2 million) to the International Red Cross to help with disaster assistance.
Gottfried is known for his abrasive style of humor in addition to his distinctive voice. He did not do the voice of the duck in the Japanese commercials -- a softer, sweeter voice is used.
Zuna said Aflac, "will immediately set plans in motion to conduct a nationwide casting call to find a new voice of the iconic Aflac Duck."