The head of Dr. Martens shoes apologized Thursday for an ad featuring Courtney Love’s late husband, Kurt Cobain, and other dead rock stars.
“We are really, really, really sorry,” Dr. Martens CEO David Suddens tells PEOPLE. “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.”
On Wednesday, Love lashed out at the company via her publicist. “Courtney had no idea this was taking place and would never have approved such a use,” her rep told PEOPLE. “She thinks it’s outrageous that a company is allowed to commercially gain from such a despicable use of her husband’s picture.”
The ad shows Cobain wearing black Dr. Martens boots, draped in an angelic robe and sitting on a cloud. In the corner, it reads: “Dr. Martens. Forever.” The ad also includes similar images of the late Sid Vicious and Joey Ramone.
Suddens tells PEOPLE the ad appeared in a single UK publication and was intended for a one-time use only, though it got greater attention with it showed up on Web sites this week. Suddens says it was a mistake to have allowed even that limited use of the ad.
“I wasn’t even aware of it,” Suddens says. “I was still unaware until [Wednesday]. When I found out what happened, I fired [the agency].”
(The ad agency that created the effort, Saatchi & Saatchi London, released a statement Thursday posted on the Web site The Daily Swarm. “We believe the ads are edgy but not offensive,” executive creative director Kate Stanners says in the statement. “We regret that the controversy has led Dr. Martens to terminate the contract with Saatchi & Saatchi.”)
Suddens says that Dr. Martens also takes responsibility. “We never should have done that,” he says. “It’s not a campaign we want to be associated with.”