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Exclusive Interview with Saatchi & Saatchi Regarding Those Doc Martens Ads Featuring Dead Punkers

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Recently the British company behind Doc Martens boots hired the famous ad company Saatchi & Saatchi to put together an advertising campaign that featured four dead punk rock heroes in Heaven wearing nothing but a sheet and a pair of the iconic combat boots.

The ads were placed in a UK publication in April called Fact Magazine, which is often found given away for free at British record stores and clothing shops.

Controversy erupted when a Saatchi employee allegedly emailed the ads to bloggers here in the United States who cried blasphemy - and worse. Infact the widow of one of the dead rockers, Courtney Love, complained that she had given no permission for the companies to use the image of her deceased husband, and said the ad was something that he would have never approved of if he were alive.

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Yesterday Doc Martens sent out a statement saying that they had fired Saatchi, which we posted. Last night Saatchi emailed LAist their side of the story and agreed to answer a few of our questions.

Their statement, followed by our questions and their answers, after the jump.

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Thursday 24 May 2007 SAATCHI & SAATCHI STANDS BY DR. MARTENS ADS

Saatchi & Saatchi today (Thursday) said it was standing by the creative work for a series of ads created for Dr. Martens which has seen the agency fired by the client. The client approved the ads to run as a one-off in Fact Magazine in the UK.

Kate Stanners, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi said the four print ads which featured the late rock singers Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, Sid Vicious and Joey Ramone all in heaven wearing Dr Martens boots, were presented as a homage to the rock legends. All four punk-rock icons were known for wearing Dr. Martens boots.

Stanners said: “We believe the ads 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.

“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.”

The images of the late rock icons were sourced from Corbis and cleared to run in the ads in the UK. The award-winning photographer Dimitri Daniloff shot the ads.

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LAist was lucky enough to interview Ms. Stanners via email early this morning:
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LAist Why do you think that Saatchi and Dr. Marten's test-marketing for the ads was so different than the reaction by bloggers and their readers' reactions in the comments - or did the test markets also hate the ads?

Kate Stanners, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi : We didn’t test market the ads. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the ads.

You say that "All four punk-rock icons were known for wearing Dr. Martens boots", but isn't it true that Mr. Cobain and Mr. Ramone were actually more well-known for wearing Converse Chuck Taylors? If this is not so, can you provide some links on the web to photos of either of those two gentlemen wearing Docs?

Cobain and Ramone were well known for wearing Converse but they also wore Dr. Martens and we’ve spoken to an aficionado at the British Boot Company who verified that he sold them Dr. Martens boots.

Courtney Love was quoted this week as being appalled that Kurt's image was used in the ad with him in it. In your statement you say that the photos were cleared via Corbis. Does that mean that the Cobain estate would not have received royalties from the ads? Or does it mean that Courtney should have known about these ads and would have gotten paid?

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Corbis appropriately licensed the images to run in Fact Magazine in the UK. UK law does not require publicity clearances from deceased celebrity estates.

Are there any other sorts of print ads similar to this one where dead celebrities were digitally manipulated for an ad that received a warm reception from the audience?

Not print but TV – DFGW and Red Bee Media created an ad last year which digital reproduced moving images of Elvis for BBC Radio 2. The ad was a YouTube favourite for months and won countless awards.

You say that your company stands behind the ads. You say that there was both negative and positive comments from the blogosphere about these ads. Does that mean that if a similar company, say a jeans company wanted to do a similar ad with dead rockers in Heaven that you would look back at this and tell them to go for it?

Absolutely if it fitted with the brand strategy.

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The BBC Elvis ad mentioned above: