Dr Martens Punk Angel Fiasco

Dr Martens UK (pronounced Doc Martens) is backtracking on the use of four rock punk icons in a recent magazine advertising campaign, moving to severe its relationship with Saatchi & Saatchi London, the agency responsible for the work. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Joey Ramone (The Ramones), Joe Strummer (The Clash) and Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) each appear as if posed for a photographer in heaven, sitting in the clouds wearing a white toga and Dr Martens boots. The tagline: “Dr Martens Forever”. The series was published once in Fact Magazine but gained worldwide attention when it was featured in AdCritic‘s Creativity magazine. Courtney Love, once the partner of Kurt Cobain, released a public complaint, saying that she had not been consulted about the despicable ad.

Kurt Cobain in Dr Martens print advertisement

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) in Dr Martens print advertisement

Joey Ramone in Dr Martens print advertisement

Joey Ramone (1951-2001) in Dr Martens print advertisement

Joe Strummer in Dr Martens print advertisement

Joe Strummer (1952-2002) in Dr Martens print ad

Sid Vicious in Dr Martens print advertisement

Sid Vicious (1957-1979) in Dr Martens, based on a photograph taken during the Sex Pistols New Year’s Eve concert at Winterland, January 14, 1978. The Corbis Photograph PN010300 was taken by Neal Preston.

David Suddens, chief executive of Dr Martens UK, has released an apology, saying that the company is very sorry for any offense that has been caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr. Martens boots.

Suddens on Thursday said that Dr Martens did not commission the work as it runs counter to their current marketing activities based on FREEDM, which is dedicated to nurturing grass roots creativity and supporting emerging talent.

Dr. Martens has terminated its relationship with Saatchi & Saatchi, the responsible agency.

Saatchi & Saatchi on Thursday responded with a statement saying that the agency was standing by the creative work, saying that Dr Martens had 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 were presented as a homage to the rock legends. She claimed that all four punk-rock icons were known for wearing Dr. Martens boots. Many would dispute her claim, pointing for example to Cobain’s preference for Converse sneakers.

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 Dr Martens campaign was developed at Saatchi & Saatchi, London, by executive creative director Kate Stanners, art director Graham Lang, copywriter Andrew Petch, photographer Dimitri Daniloff and retoucher Christophe Huet.

The images of the rock artists were sourced from Corbis and cleared to run in the ads in the UK.