Axe, Bold as Yuck


As someone who once busked for a living, this New York Times article about corporate sponsorship for street musicians fills me with much wonder, and not a little bit of loathing–for The Man, for myself, for the 58-year-old street musician in question, and (above all?) for Neil Young:

Get a job!

To introduce a leather-scented deodorant called Axe Instinct, Axe sought out about 20 street musicians and college bands in several cities, using Craigslist, MySpace and other Web sites. In exchange for an estimated $1,000, Axe asked the musicians to put up "Axe Instinct" signs, offer free deodorant samples when they play and, a few times a day, sing a ditty "Look Good in Leather" that Axe is using in its commercials. The musicians' stints started in September and run through the end of the year.

"Our biggest thing is not about what they look like but the authenticity of them," said Jay E. Mathew Jr., marketing director for deodorants at Unilever USA. "We want people that, this is what they do every day."

Asked if it was authentic to have street performers singing a corporate jingle, Mr. Mathew said he thought it was. "The song itself is a song that was created in 2002 and not something we created for just the ad — it was an existing, organic type of music. We thought it fit perfectly with the campaign."

Mr. Ryan had once sworn never to sell out, after he watched a documentary where Neil Young said the same thing. "I said, 'Wow, that's a lot of integrity. That's me, too.' Then I realized two things. First is, Neil Young's a millionaire. And second, nobody's ever asked me. So as soon as they asked me, I said, 'Well, why not?'"

Cough up the bucks!