Sunday (Feb.3) brought us yet another Super Bowl advertisement extravaganza, with the usual programming of celebrity car and beverage endorsements joined by an unlikely bit of documentary footage courtesy of Burger King. The fast-food chain introduced its #EatLikeAndy campaign with a video of 1980s pop-art icon Andy Warhol irritably eating a Whopper.
On its face, the video passes for Warhol-approved sponcon, but the advertising-industry publication Ad Age reveals that the true story behind the footage isn’t so simple. The clip is indeed a real piece of footage from 1982, and was originally part of the film 66 Scenes From America by Danish documentarian Jørgen Leth. (Slate describes the documentary as “an experimental collage made up of postcard-like vignettes of American life, from a bartender making drinks at Sardi’s to, well, Andy Warhol eating a Burger King burger.”)
But Ad Age cites an interview with Leth, in which he says the late artist would have preferred a McDonald’s burger to the Whopper he eats in the video. As the filmmaker explains, this was because Warhol allegedly preferred the design of the Micky D’s wrapper:
“I’d sent my assistant down to get hamburgers and I specifically asked for unmarked, neutral wrappers. It could be a problem, because Warhol was so aware of his own commercial value and he might refuse to appear with a certain product. So I took my precautions. When he saw the three hamburgers I had ordered, one from Burger King and two neutral products, he said, “Where’s the McDonald’s?” I said we’d get one right away. “It’s the nicest design,” he said. “Let’s not waste time on that. I’ll eat the Burger King.” It was his choice. I hadn’t expected him to be so relaxed about the choice of product. But he preferred McDonald’s because they had the nicest design, in his very professional opinion. Burger King was okay, but he refused to work with the neutral ones.”
Burger King shared the entire clip online, which is nearly five minutes long and happens to be a great (and extremely uncomfortable) piece of performance art in its own right. The video shows Warhol roll his burger up like a burrito before eating it, after which he stares into space for about a minute. Watch the full clip here:
Burger King did not respond to a request for comment, but its ad suggests it has no qualms pushing its own historical narrative around Warhol’s burger-envelope preferences. Meanwhile, McDonald’s used its own Super Bowl spot for an underwhelming ad for cheesy bacon fries, starring Ken Jeong and JB Smoove.