It would appear that not all publicity is good publicity after a furore has broken out over the latest Dr Martens poster campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi, which features a selection of rock legends in heavenly poses wearing the boots. The campaign, originally approved to run as a one-off in Fact magazine, has caused heated blogging debate online and ultimately led to the shoe brand deciding to fire Saatchis. And Creative Review has inadvertently gotten caught up in the maelstrom by including the ads in our latest issue, after one of the creatives submitted the work.
The four rockers featured in the posters are Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, Sid Vicious and Joey Ramone, and the upset began after the posters appeared on US website The Daily Swarm, seemingly with the consent of creative Andrew Petch who is quoted in the piece. It quickly provoked angry reactions from the musicians’ families, who were not contacted to give their permission on the image use (this is not a legal requirement in the UK but is in the US). Dr Martens then issued the following statement announcing the termination of its contract with Saatchis. “Dr Martens is very sorry for any offense that has been caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr Martens boots. Dr Martens did not commission the work as it runs counter to our current marketing activities based on FREEDM, which is dedicated to nurturing grass roots creativity and supporting emerging talent. As a consequence, Dr Martens has terminated its relationship with the responsible agency.”
Kate Stanners, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi replied: “We believe the images are edgy but not offensive. There has been blog commentary both for and against the ads, but it is our belief that they are respectful of both the musicians and the Dr Martens brand.”
Despite this, it appears that the controversy is not over yet, at least for some, as Stanners’ statement goes on: “We regret that the controversy has led Dr. Martens to terminate the contract with Saatchi & Saatchi. We are investigating the circumstances and considering the ongoing employment of the individual who was in breach of instructions not to distribute the ads further than the original approved placement in Fact Magazine in the UK.
“While we believe the creative is a beautiful tribute to four legendary musicians, the individual broke both agency and client protocol in this situation by placing the ads on a US advertising website and acting as an unauthorised spokesperson for the company.”
And finally, just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, it appears that Joey Ramone didn’t even like Dr Martens boots, according to a statement by his brother that has also surfaced on The Daily Swarm. “Obviously, we are in the same position as Courtney Love, as well as the estates of the others depicted (in the ad),” says Mickey Leigh. “We were never consulted about this ad. We were never asked for permission to use Joey’s image, or paid for the use of it. As executor of my brother’s estate I never would have approved this ad as Joey never wore these shoes. And, not that my brother was terribly religious, but the fact that he was Jewish, and this ad is not exactly Kosher, makes it that much more inappropriate, inconsiderate and contemptible.”