The photo you see to the right washed up on the shores of Reddit yesterday. It’s a duck in a subway station. “Why is that duck in that subway station?” you ask. The short answer is: Aflac publicity stunt. The longer answer: poorly thought-out Aflac publicity stunt, one that has the MTA rather steamed. Please don’t make a joke about steamed duck. This post already has way more puns than it needs, God help us all.
After seeing the photo on Reddit yesterday, and hearing that it was likely an Aflac stunt, we e-mailed the MTA anyway, to see if there was any chance that a duck about town just happened to be spotted in the 23rd Street N/R station. He was going uptown, obviously, presumably to the Harlem Meer.
“Checked with our Stations Dept.,” wrote back one MTA spokesperson, Kevin Ortiz. “No reports of a duck in the system.” (The MTA apparently refers to the subway as “the system,” which is delightful.)
“I’m very pro-duck,” wrote the MTA’s other spokesperson, Adam Lisberg. “So if anyone’s messing with a duck in the subway, I want to know about it.”
A few hours later, Lisberg wrote back with the news that they had confirmed the duck was, indeed, an Aflac publicity stunt. A spokes-duck, if you will.
“Ducks don’t belong on the subway,” Lisberg added. “Especially waddling through stations, and especially not when they’re used as part of a publicity stunt that makes it harder for our customers to get around. We did not know about this stunt, we did not approve it, and we’ve made clear to Aflac that it was improper. New Yorkers know that animals are only allowed in the subway when they’re enclosed in containers that will prevent them from annoying any other passengers.”
Laura Kane, a spokesperson from Aflac, confirmed that the duck was in town for Advertising Week. “He did a little bit of vocal session with Joey Fatone and Lance Bass from ‘N Sync,” she said. “I’ve got some great photos of that. And of him riding in a cab.”
No, thanks. We asked where the duck was from, and how he got here, and Kane reiterated that it was for Ad Week. No, we clarified, the actual, living duck.
“He lives north of the city,” Kane replied, about 75 miles away. “I don’t want to give his exact location because he’s a pretty valuable little guy.”
Furthermore, she added, “We did not put him on the subway. Everyone gets real concerned about that. He visited the station just to see what the straphandlers were up to. Don’t you call them straphandlers?”
Kane also said that the duck, who doesn’t have a name, had a handler with him. “We didn’t put him actually on the subway,” she repeated. “We’d never put him in situation where he wasn’t controlled.”
She also confirmed that they’d received a phone call from the MTA, although she said she wasn’t the person to receive the call, and didn’t know what had been said. The upshot seems to be that they were unhappy. Gothamist got in touch with PETA, who said they’d be contacting Aflac with concerns of their own, writing, “A subway station is no place for a duck, who can’t possibly understand the reason for all the noise and commotion of an everyday commute, let alone a gathering crowd with flashing cameras.”
We asked Kane if, given the negative feedback, they’d think twice before taking a farm animal into the subway again.
“Absolutely,” she replied. “We didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers.” Enormous groan.