Over the last few weeks, rappers Drake and 21 Savage have embarked on a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote their newest album, Her Loss, by releasing a series of fake media appearances on their social channels.
This has included an interview with Howard Stern, a COLORS show, and a musical performance on Saturday Night Live introduced by Michael B. Jordan, all of which never took place and were made using clever editing, deepfakes, and impressive set designs.
But when a fake Vogue cover featuring Drake and 21 Savage began to circulate the streets of New York, the magazine’s publisher deemed that was a step too far.
Condé Nast filed a lawsuit against both rappers in a Manhattan federal court on Monday evening, claiming they engaged in trademark infringement when they created and distributed counterfeit copies of a Vogue issue to drive up the sales of the album Her Loss, which was released last Friday, Nov. 4.
Condé Nast claims the promotional campaign was built “entirely” on the unauthorized use of Vogue trademarks and false representation that the rappers would appear on Vogue’s next cover.
The magazine publisher says that Vogue and editor Anna Wintour “have not endorsed [Her Loss] in any way” and have asked for all the promos with Vogue‘s name to be taken down multiple times to no avail.
The trolling Vogue advertisement was so realistic that many media outlets initially believed them. The rappers not only passed around the issues to people in New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, but they also put up fake posters in the Vogue styling.
Drake even tweeted a picture of the cover image with the caption “Me and my brother on newsstands tomorrow!! Thanks @voguemagazine and Anna Wintour for the love and support on this historic moment.”
Conde Nast wrote in the complaint filed: “All of this is false. And none of it has been authorized by Conde Nast.” The publisher is seeking statutory damages of up to $4 million.
Drake took down the post from his Instagram on Tuesday. Condé Nast did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment by the time of publication.
The stunt is the next step in a shift in traditional music marketing.
Over the years, music superstars like Drake and Beyoncé have opted to use their social media clout to boost publicity for upcoming albums rather than the usual route of talk-show appearances and magazine interviews to drum up interest.
Drake takes it a step further by doing the same fake interviews artists seek to avoid and trolling fans into believing they’re real.
The elaborate marketing strategy comes at a time when even the biggest names can get lost in the overcrowded market. Many A-list artists including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Harry Styles, and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few, have released new music in recent weeks.
But while Vogue was angered by the whole affair, Howard Stern got a kick out of it, praising the marketing campaign for its ingenuity.
“Drake did such a good job that the news outlets are reporting on it as if it’s real,” Stern said during a recent show. “I wish I could do this.
“Whenever I have to promote something, I should do this. Hell, whenever I have to go visit my mother, I wish I could do this.”
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