AUSTIN, TX: Aflac, the insurance provider, has successfully given its duck mascot a voice on social media – and thus translated the engagement its avian ambassador generates on TV into a range of online opportunities.

Kip Havel, Aflac's vp/communications and content marketing, discussed this subject at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

And he reported that giving its much-loved spokesbird a presence on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram has added a significant new dimension to the character.

"You've seen the Duck in quirky situations, you've seen it doing things on TV," he said. (For more, including details of the brand's "Duck dossier" that guides its strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Giving Aflac's Duck a voice on social media.)

"But social and those channels really give us an opportunity to take a look at where the Duck lives, what does it do on a daily basis, and how can you take its humour in ways we never could on TV, and extend it.

"With social media and the ability of the Duck to 'type' its thoughts and take pictures of where it's going every day allows for new areas to be explored. I think we're really just scratching the surface of it."

As the Duck has only said Aflac's name in TV spots over the last 15 years, one extension of its personality has involved vocabulary. And its on-screen antics gave an indication of what form its digital lexicon should look like.

"The Duck is this pop-culture icon who likes to have fun, is a bit witty [and] sarcastic," said Havel.

Having secured over 635,000 "likes" on Facebook, as well as 68,000 followers on Twitter and a fan base of nearly 2,000 people on Instagram, the appetite to hear from Aflac's mascot is evident.

But in order to retain that interest, Aflac must carefully manage which subjects it discusses. "The Duck is not going to speak about healthcare reform. That's not the Duck's place," said Havel.

"We know where the engagement levels are very high is when you see the Duck talking about what it might have had for dinner last night or what trip it is taking."

Data sourced from Warc