Not only did The New York Times declare in January that Saunders new collection of short stories would be the best book of the year, but earlier today global consumer products giant Unilever tapped Saunders to be the voice and face of Axe Body Spray.
Consistent with the recent trend of marketers ostensibly incorporating celebrity spokespersons into the fabric of their organizations, Unilever granted Saunders the title ‘Creative Director.’
Announcing the move, Axe Brand Director Stephen Beauchamp said, “George Saunders has come to Axe because he believes in the product and subscribes to our overriding philosophy of gentlemanly grooming and man-scaping.”
The deal, rumored to be worth $5 million, includes Saunders input on Axe’s brand communications, line extensions, live events and merchandise.
Saunders’ first project is a commemorative gift-set of Axe Shower Gel called “Monsters of McSweeney’s” that features on-pack silhouettes of Saunders, Dave Eggers, and Michael Chabon. The limited edition set will be available just in time for the May/June “Dads and Grads” marketing season, and comes in three new scents: Summer Blast, Watermelon-Balsamic and Benzedrine-Clove.
Axe will also present “The George Saunders Experience, Brought to you by Axe Body Spray,” a live extravaganza of short story readings and action sports that will run for 19 nights each at Los Angeles’ Skirball Center and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
Says Unilever’s Beauchamp, “It’s gonna be rad! George is gonna tear it up with some of his reflective, absurdist stories about modern society. AND there’s gonna be shitloads of Rockstar energy drink for slammin’ and jammin’!”
Unilever believes Saunders can help nudge Axe toward a more sophisticated user-base.
“We did some analysis of Axe brand perception – the Y&R Brand Asset Valuator to be specific – and learned that the brands we most clearly mirrored were Hooters, GoDaddy and Ed Hardy. So, you know, pretty douchy.” said Beauchamp.
He continued, “We’re hoping that George – as ‘the writer for our time’ – is going to help us break through to consumers who can actually read.”
And why would the recipient of a MacArthur Genius award want to shill for Axe body spray, which is widely regarded as a pedestrian brand for brainless consumers like those on Jersey Shore?
“Exactly for that reason,” says Elliot Edgerton, Saunders manager. “We’re trying to move George a little more to the center of mass culture. He doesn’t want to be just an observer of modern consumerist engine – he wants to be a participant.”
“By which I mean that we did it for the money.”