Screenshot: Burger King

In the mind-numbing banality that was Super Bowl LIII, things did perk up at one point when Andy Warhol, of all people, sat down and ate a Whopper in a Burger King commercial.

The intriguing, near silent (except for some paper-rustling and some perplexed thoughts about ketchup) ad brought up a lot of questions. Like: What? Why? How? Turns out the 45 seconds were culled from a 1982 JØrgen Leth documentary called 66 Scenes From America, explains Ad Age. Agency David Miami then helped Burger King get rights to the footage for the ad.

Sitting in my neighbor’s basement watching the big, boring game, even a Warhol aficionado like me (my family is from Pittsburgh, so I have been to the Warhol museum innumerable times), did a double-take: Holy shit was that really Andy Warhol? It was! What kind of message is BK trying to send, when undoubtedly many of the younger people watching this ad would not have even identified the famous artist?

That, to my mind, nails the brilliance of the ad. Warhol himself would have loved it (even though he did originally request a McDonald’s burger), and would have happily scooped up any of the residuals he was bound to get. The guy started out in advertising, and eventually became one of the most commercial artists America’s ever had. Let’s face it, rolling out all those cow and Campbell’s Soup silkscreens really didn’t take a ton of hands-on artistic ability (you can make one yourself at Warhol’s museum). But they sure did make him a lot of money.

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Warhol also loved anything that contributed to his own celebrity. A Super Bowl ad? He would have loved it. The guy was even on Love Boat, for god’s sake, with Happy Days’ Marion Ross as a former Warhol “superstar.”

Therefore, as AdWeek aptly describes, the ad is “exactly the kind of meta commentary on consumerism that made Warhol famous.” Well-played, BK, and if exposes more people to Warhol’s fascinating legacy as one of the most successful American artists of the 20th century? All the better. Sure adds more intrigue than robots or corn syrup or whatever.

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