Clad only in a hat, boots, tight white briefs, and a strategically placed guitar, the Naked Cowboy is a must-see attraction for visitors to New York City's Times Square. But when Mars, Inc., paid homage to the street performer's star power by dressing a blue M&M in his signature costume for a video billboard, the Naked Cowboy, a.k.a. Robert Burck, was not amused.
According to a $6 million lawsuit, the candy company appropriated Burck's likeness without permission and without offering compensation. Not surprisingly, the video disappeared from public view almost immediately. If Vanna White can invoke her rights of publicity under California law to prevent Samsung from using the image of a robot in a blonde wig and evening gown in an ad, then surely Burck -- who apparently makes quite a good living as a street performer and is available for corporate appearances -- can prevent an animated chocolate candy from stealing his schtick.
The M&M meltdown is just one more reason why ad agencies should run their clever references by legal before making them public. Counterfeit Chic must applaud one element of the ad, though: the color choice. I'd turn blue, too, standing outside dressed like that.
Thanks to Kate Moore for the tip!