Balloon year: 2005

Irrelevance and bankruptcy happen. You can deal with that. Actually injuring potential consumers? That's much tougher to get over.

Especially when you injure those customers waiting near the site of your nearly completed megastore. Such was Mars' nightmare in 2005 when balloons shaped like M&M's chocolate candies snagged a streetlight in Times Square and hurt a pair of sisters with the falling debris. The 24,000-square-foot, three-level glass M&M's World store was little less than a year away from opening, and this was the first impression M&M's made on the new neighborhood.

The M&M World store opened without a hitch, but the wayward M&Ms pretty much ruined everything else. Once again new safety measures were introduced. Wind measurement devices were installed along the parade route, parade organizers kept balloons closer to the ground and a mandate was imposed: No balloons in winds of more than 24 miles per hour.

Stupid candy-coated chocolates.

The Aflac (AFL) Duck
Balloon year: 2011

This probably seemed like a heck of an idea when Aflac signed up for it a year before. A big inflated spot in the parade, a familiar animal mascot made larger than life. What could go wrong?

For Aflac and its duck in 2011, just about everything.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried had provided the duck's voice for 11 years but, last March, decided to make some jokes about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Gottfried's a button-pusher and Aflac had to see this coming, right? Nope. Gottfried was scolded by the marketing department and summarily canned. A week later, the company began an Internet search for its new duck voice. It took more than a month to track down somebody else, and the 36-year-old ad sales manager from Minnesota filling the duck's webbed feet didn't quite have Gottfried's trademark vocals or celebrity cachet. The first new commercial aired in May, but a beleaguered public seemed indifferent.

By the time the duck hit the streets of New York in November, the voice controversy had died down a bit but was still awkward for the NBC announcer team and everyone involved. It may have sparked a few Thanksgiving morning conversations, but probably fewer pertaining to insurance than Aflac would have liked.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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