In the entire 53-year history of the Super Bowl there may be no more unlikely pairing with the game’s flashy, over-the-top advertisements than the inclusion of Pop artist and global market phenomenon Andy Warhol, seen quietly eating a Burger King hamburger in an ad for the fast food chain. Even considering that Warhol’s fame has spread beyond his predicted “15 minutes for everyone,” this was a pretty big stage for Andy.
So how did the art world—and the broader world beyond—process the unusually arty commercial? Reactions varied widely from distaste to shock and disbelief to outright glee.
The professional ad-watching world was less than enthused. In fact, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which ranks the ads after the game each year, gave the Burger King’s “#EatLikeAndy” commercial a big fat “F,” calling it the “Worst Super Bowl Ad”:
The ad had a number of problems and was the only spot to earn an “F,” [Professor Derek D.] Rucker said. First, it wasn’t clear that it was an ad for Burger King, with some viewers thinking it was advertising Heinz ketchup, since artist Andy Warhol is shown struggling to get the ketchup out of a bottle.
“There’s an expectation you will do something interesting and engaging, and it fails on those core fundamentals,” Rucker says. “It’s uninteresting, and there isn’t strong brand positioning behind it.”
It’s also unclear how many viewers will recognize Andy Warhol, who died in 1987, which limits the appeal of the commercial.
Blake Gopnik, the well-known art critic who is writing a Warhol biography, thought the Burger King spot missed the entire point of the original film:
Others couldn’t have been happier to their favorite Pop painter on the big screen after so many years. Almost immediately, Mads Noermark Andersen, an “artist and art addict” in Denmark, posted an offer for a limited edition print, hoping to cash in on the a trending topic (and maybe the fact that the filmmaker who originally shot the footage, Jørgen Leth, was also a Dane):
Adbrands.net, a site devoted to cataloging the “best new ads from around the world,” was complementary, though it thought that Leth, rather than the Mad Men behind the spot, should get the real credit:
Art teacher and artist Lorrinda Cerrutti hoped that it would bring home to former students the value of their lessons:
One Instagram post that drew more than 500,000 views is a posted by a user named Daquan Gesese, an influencer with 12.1 million followers. Gesese dons a blonde Warhol wig (presumably the one given away with the DoorDash Mystery Box promotion that had promoted the #EatLikeAndy campaign) under his baseball hat before pulling a Whopper out of a white paper bag and eating it while gleefully dancing around. The caption above the video says: “When you finally get the food you’ve been craving.”
Under his avatar is the tagline “Paid post with Burger King.” (Burger King’s corporate office had not responded to artnet News’s questions as of publication time.)
One person who was definitely not amused by the spot? Disgraced former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who tweeted that the spot was “was terrible,” saying that the idea that someone spent $5 million to air it was enough to make him “go socialist.” (Superbowl ads cost between $5.1 million and $5.3 million this year, according to Bloomberg.)
Ultimately, despite the public’s rather mixed reaction to the ad, perhaps Warhol’s time at the Super Bowl was only logical, given Warhol’s prescience about the mixing of high and low culture. As this Instagram poster summed it up so succinctly: “weird…but not weird, right?”
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