Is Kanye West the Modern Don Draper?

Kanye West SmallWith the smash success of Mad Men, the compliment du jour in ad land is to compare someone to Don Draper. As a weekly reader of Ad Age, I have seen the glamorous analogy thrown around a few times.

Don Draper’s real life counterpart lived 50+ years ago. Today the real marketing stars understand how to get millions worth of PR free in top publications and across the global blogosphere. Don Draper may have reached Sally Homemaker, but people like Kanye West are reaching the eyes of millions — maybe billions — more persons.

Here are three reasons Kanye West is the best PR man alive:

1) “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” If that were ad copy, it would be as emotionally charged and impressionable as you could ever dream. However, those are the words Kanye declared in a major public service announcement after Hurricane Katrina. That video clip was a shot heard ’round the world (and at the time, the world desperately extolled anyone who could express their feelings in the media).

This event alone does not make my case. But here comes the pattern …

2) Tantrums, threats and public acts of petulance. Kanye has had so many public outbursts, has a timeline. By the end of 2007, Kanye had walked out of the 32nd Annual American Music Awards when Gretchen Wilson won (later calling her a “Redneck Woman”) and declares a conspiracy against him, stages a “Heavenly Persecution” act during his performance at the 47th Grammy Awards (indicating he is the central focus of “haters”), said he would have a “real problem” if he did not win album of the year at the 48th Grammy Awards, stormed the stage at the MTV European Music Awards because his video did not win, and most recently interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Music Awards to express he thought Beyonce should have won.

If you don’t think this guy has a premeditated PR strategy, I know some guys “off” Wall Street who have some risk free investments for you.

3) #RIPKanyeWest. For those unaware, that was the most popular tag on Twitter yesterday. Even I surfed to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) News to see if Kanye had truly finished his grand performance on Earth. Alas, it was simply another celebrity death hoax gone viral.

Kanye is not the first to take advantage of the death hoax. However, it’s a legitimate strategy for PR firms who believe all press is good press. In Kanye’s case, I believe he simply saw it work for others (e.g., Britney Spears) and added it to the list of deliverables to his boss: himself.


When taken together, Kanye’s actions add up to a well thought out, consistent, savvy guerrilla marketing scheme. Don Draper may have been a superior creative within the old messaging model, but Kanye is truly a Mad Man of the Information Age.

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