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Agency Copywriter Finally Stops Defending Kanye West, Creates #HelpKenyaNotKanye


Kanye West and Donald Trump are two very different people who have dominated the media this month.

The terrible twosome do, however, share several significant traits, including an uncanny knack for attracting haters, the power to drive entire news cycles with a single tweet, and a proven ability to inspire stunts from ad industry creatives.

In case you missed it, Kanye went on a wild Twitter rant about a week ago in which he said he was $53 million in debt and asked friends and fans to donate money for his personal creative endeavors rather than, say, helping to build a school for impoverished communities on the African sub-continent.

Gabriel Ferrer is a senior copywriter at Alma, the Miami-based multicultural wing of Omnicom's DDB network. He's also a lifelong Kanye West fan. But this particular freakout was the final straw, so Ferrer created the #HelpKenyaNotKanye project, a scrolling site that encourages fans to donate their money to more worthy causes and links out to related charities.

"I've always been a huge Kanye fan," Ferrer tells AdFreak, "But because he frequently makes a fool of himself, people are like, 'How can you defend this guy?' Everybody started texting and tweeting at me when he went on this latest rant and expecting a response, so instead of defending him, I figured I would shift the conversation in a positive way." 

After watching a Late Show with Stephen Colbert segment in which Kanye discussed the African schools tweet, Ferrer woke up with the idea for the site and had it live before leaving to teach his evening class at Miami Ad School. "I tell my students that when you have an idea, you have to just make it happen," he says. 

"My concept," he adds, "was to equate the value of things Kanye is selling to exactly what you can get for that total in Africa." For example, you could buy a set of books for an entire school rather than scoring a pair of West's $200 Yeezy Adidas boots (and that's not even springing for the ankle boots, which go for more than $600).

"Technically, I don't want all the help to go to Kenya," Ferrer says. "But it works with the pun." The copywriter and his wife, who is an art director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, also had a working knowledge of Kenya after planning to vacation there last year.

Though he has worked on PSA campaigns for various clients like Tobacco-Free Florida throughout his more than five-year advertising career, Ferrer tells AdFreak: "Of all the things I've done, this has gotten the best reponse ... and it's something I did in my living room with no money. Twenty percent of people who responded said they donated. Most just tell me that it's funny, and a small percentage are saying, Don't twist this, you're just piggybacking for your cause." 

Ferrer's one regret is his inability to track how many total donations his project has inspired because each link redirects to a third-party address. 

Asked whether he might have some personal guidance for Kanye given the press his Kenya efforts have received, Ferrer said: "From a certain point, I understand that he may want to do things he can't even afford yet. But you have to live within your means, especially when you're a father of two. I'm not too worried about him financially, but I would suggest that he maybe think things through a little bit."

West will probably never come across Ferrer's advice, but two days after launching the tweetstorm that inspired this project, he did admit his own ego has always been his "No. 1 enemy."

Maybe the man with the biggest head in pop music will listen to reason after all.

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