Until I started paying attention, I never realized how many interesting apologies there are floating around out there in the remorsosphere. Here is another corporate apology. Dr. Martens, the shoe company whose products were the de facto official footwear of the grunge movement, has apologized for … well, read this excerpt:
“The company has apologised to Kurt’s widow Courtney Love
– who was outraged by the image of Kurt wearing black Dr. Martens
boots, draped in an angelic robe and sitting on a cloud – and admitted
they made a “mistake”.
Dr. Martens CEO David Suddens said: “We do think that it is
offensive. We made a mistake. My message to Courtney Love is – this is
something we shouldn’t have been doing.
“Dr. Martens is very sorry for any offence that has been
caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr.
Kurt was one of several dead rock legends used to promote Dr.
Martens’ AirWair line. Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols and The Ramones
star Joey Ramone also feature in the adverts, which have only been
shown in the UK. (“Kurt Cobain apology”)
The United States has much more developed legal protections a gains unauthorized commercial use of the images of even dead celebrities than the UK or most other jurisdictions. If you don’t believe me, churn out some bootleg Elvis knickknacks that don’t involve black velvet and count the seconds until the Presley estate brings the hammer down. But even granting that the ad in question was only intended for use in the more lenient UK, Dr. Martens ran afoul of McGirt’s Maxim: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean its a good idea.”
It is perhaps in poor taste to employ the image of a dead man to sell footwear without first checking to see if that would be okay with his widow. Particularly when the widow is a shy and sensitive soul like Courtney Love, whose representative said on her behalf (it generally being advisable for celebrities not to peak for themselves): “Courtney had no idea this was taking place
and would never have approved it. She thinks it’s outrageous that a
company is allowed to commercially gain from such a despicable use of
her husband’s picture.”
I’m sure I could track down the footage of the offending ad on YouTube. But if I can, so can you if you really want to see it. For our purposes, suffice to say Courtney was offended. No word on whether the survivors of Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone took offense … the headlines all play up the Kurt Cobain angle.
Here is the apology, from the Dr. Martens website:
DR. MARTENS REGRETS THE USE OF UNAUTHORISED IMAGES
Dr. Martens is very sorry for any offense that has been
caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr. Martens
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.
A fairly run of the mill corporate apology. Elevated slightly by David Suddens stepping up and putting his name on this … not the generic disembodied corporate voice. But points off for passing the buck to Saatchi + Saatchi London. In the article cited above, Suddens is quoted as saying he didn’t know Cobain was featured in the ad and that Dr. Martens didn’t commission it. I’m not sure how that works. Does their ad agency just go off on their own to produce and release ads without ever running them by their client? If so, they don’t any more … Saatchi + Saatchi got canned. (Which serves them right for that pretentious “+” in their name, if nothing else.) Not sure how to score that. If, in fact, S+S was freelancing, they had it coming. But it also looks like Dr. Martens atoning for their mistake by punishing someone else.
Then you have that weaselly “Hey, don’t look at us — this doesn’t even fit our current marketing campaign.” Boy, S+S really didn’t get the memo! But, Mr. Suddens, are you saying that if your current marketing campaign did happen to be based on dead celebrities really digging your shoes rather than “nurturing grass roots creativity” (?!?) then it would have been okay?
Finally, who exactly are we apologizing too, again? Again, the official apology isn’t directed to anyone in particular. Mr. Suddens, on behalf of Dr. Martens, appears to be apologizing to whom it may concern. And it is an apology of the “sorry for any offense” variety rather than, “sorry for what we actually did wrong … using the image of Courtney Love’s dead husband to flog boots without asking permission first.”
Not a great effort, all in all. In fairness, Mr. Suddens appears to have made some additional statements more specifically addressed to Courtney Love … but here we’re just scoring the official statement on the Dr. Martens website, not extra credit assignments or makeup work.
Love Gets an Apology for Cobain Ads
DATE OF APOLOGY: May 25, 2007
APOLOGIZER: Dr. Martens (via David Suddens, Chief Executive)
APOLOGIZEE: Not specified. Presumably anyone offended by the publication of images of dead rock icons wearing Dr. Martens boots — a category that, at a minimum, includes Courtney Love.