The Doc Martens fiasco: crisis mismanagement

Over at PR Disasters Gerry McCusker gives an account of Saatchi and Saatchi’s sacking over a tasteless ad campaign featuring famous dead people wearing Doc Martens boots, the idea of the campaign being that, unlike their wearers, they’re ‘made to last’. The agency’s reaction is none too clever either: Creative Director Kate Stanners says the ads are ‘edgy, but not offensive’. Gerry’s insight is that this is a prime example of when the ad agencies should bring in PR for crisis management. I’d add that this is also a case of damage to a brand that really should know better. We’re all in communications, so how could S&S make such a cock-up of it?

If you handle a crisis badly it can be severely damaging. The Cadburys salmonella episode is a case in point: while the financial effects have been classed as ‘minimal’ there is severe damage to the Cadburys brand which is associated with wholesome family values. This will affect the brand well into the future and I predict that S&S will be counting the cost of this disaster for some time to come, over and above the immediate lack of revenue from losing the account.

I’d also add that it smacks of internal communications gone bad. While Dr Martens CEO David Suddens is trying to do the right thing, now saying “We do think that it is offensive. We made a mistake,” it turns out that he didn’t even know Cobain had been featured in the ad. This not something the CEO should have been told: it is something the checks and balances of effective internal communications should have stopped before it even became public.

This one looks set to run. It’s all over the place. Watch and learn.

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2 thoughts on “The Doc Martens fiasco: crisis mismanagement

  1. Ta for link, but want to emphasise that PR needs to be brought in while the writers and ADs are presenting the concepts internally (b4 it goes to client); scenario planning/stakeholder projection can help preclude PR gaffe like this b4 you even consider final art, and save reactive Crisis Mgmt activity.

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