Pop or Flop? Burger King’s Andy Warhol Super Bowl Ad Succeeded in Alienating Pretty Much Everybody
From Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik to disgraced Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly, everyone had opinions, mainly negative ones.
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 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—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, called the Burger King “#EatLikeAndy” commercial the “Worst Super Bowl Ad,” according to CBS News:
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.
The latter opinion was summed up, in a more meme-friendly version, by this exchange on Twitter:
Fans of art were not all that impressed either. Blake Gopnik, the well-known art critic who is writing a Warhol biography, wrote on Instagram that 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 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 the presence of an artist in the big game would bring home to former students the value of their lessons:
One Instagram post that drew more than 500,000 views came from Daquan Gesese, a meme-maker and 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 accompanied the Burger King’s #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 the avatar is the line “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 and Culture Warrior author Bill O’Reilly. He tweeted that the Warhol spot “was terrible,” adding that the idea that Burger King spent $5 million to air it was enough to make him “go socialist.” (Super Bowl 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 in the Super Bowl spotlight was only logical, given his prescience about the mixing of high and low culture. As one Instagram commenter summed it up on the post below: “weird…but not weird, right?”
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