Kurt Cobain Ad Causes More Headaches Across The Pond

Just so Courtney doesn’t sue us, I won’t show the Doc Martens ad featuring Kurt Cobain in heaven. It was only supposed to be seen in a British music magazine. But the International Herald Tribune has more on what happened next:

The trouble began when an employee – disobeying instructions, Saatchi insisted – submitted the images to www.adcritic.com, a U.S.-based ad industry Web site. In the United States, the estates of dead celebrities are allowed to control the use of their images, unlike in Britain, where, lawyers say, no approval is needed.
A spokeswoman for Saatchi, Eleanor Conroy, said the employee who was responsible for the breach had been dismissed.
“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 U.S. advertising Web site and acting as an unauthorized spokesperson for the company,” Kate Stanners, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi London, said in a statement.
Sending ads to sites like AdCritic is common, particularly when an agency or ad executive is trying to “seed” it so that it can spread “virally” on the Internet. Creative types like to do this in order to generate chatter about their ads, which is helpful when awards season rolls around. Clients rarely complain, because they get free advertising.
In this case, however, Airwair International, the British company that makes Dr. Martens, was not impressed. It canceled its contract with Saatchi & Saatchi, reportedly worth £5 million, or $9.9 million, over three years.

So the agency got fired, and in turn, fired whoever uploaded the ad to AdCritic.


It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all the laws here in our global village, isn’t it? Is the threat of getting fired going to stop people from sending work to AdCritic, or posting it on the ‘Net?
Now that the Web is, uh, worldwide, all sorts of spec and real ads are beeing seen ’round the world in mere seconds. It is free publicity for a client and self-promotion for the creatives, after all. And that’s how you get noticed–and get fame, a better job, more money, and ego-boosting articles in Creativity magazine.
[UPDATE] Oh, and as of Monday June 4, AdCritic still has the Kurt Cobain ad, along with the rest of the campaign, on its site.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.