What would Andy Warhol, who has sparked countless debates over the commoditisation of culture, make of today's veritable carnival of commerce, the 11.11 shopping festival?
While we'll never know for certain, the global icon often considered world's best known pop artist has now been given the ability to embrace it posthumously through his Foundation's collaboration with skincare brand SK-II on a new limited edition product made just in time for Singles Day.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with SK-II on the unique Andy Warhol X SK-II Pitera Essence limited edition series which celebrates Warhol’s inclusive view that everybody is a beauty,” Michael Dayton Hermann, director of licensing, marketing and sales at The Andy Warhol Foundation says. “Warhol’s non-conformist spirit is brought to life in this distinctive collaboration with SK-II blurring the lines between art, mass media, and commerce."
It's these blurred lines that are explored in the 'Broadcast Your Beauty' marketing campaign by Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore, the strategic and creative agency on the campaign and SK-II's global creative partner since 2015. Unlisted was the production company on the film.
What initially brought Warhol and SK-II together was the shared belief that beauty is in everyone, says GaYoon Jung, SK-II's global vice-president of brand design and innovation. "Andy Warhol is known to be one of the world’s most prolific and popular artists, however not everyone knows his stance on beauty," Jung tells Campaign. "He believed in the potential of everyone to be beautiful and celebrated it through art and mass media."
The campaign aimed primarily at the Chinese and Japanese markets features three of the pop artist's famous quotes about beauty: "All is pretty", "If everybody is not a beauty than nobody is," and "I've never met a person I wouldn't call a beauty" all emblazoned on Pitera Essence packaging. Behind the slogans, the packaging itself is adorned in Warhol's iconic technicolour test pattern designs, a trademark of 'Andy Warhol T.V.' that he founded to explore the medium of television.
“No one understood the relationship between advertising and culture more than Andy Warhol himself," says Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore creative Gary Lim. "So we went into his vast creative playground, to bring to life his fascination with the world of broadcast. Part of which has been beautifully immortalised onto the SK-II bottles."
These broadcast test patterns tie right back to Warhol's expressions of beauty from his iconic 'screen tests'. These were hundreds of individuals including celebrities and everyday people in black and white portraits whom he personally photographed. In the campaign film, a nod to these appear as black and white images of SK-II brand ambassadors posing in photo shoots, whose are then 'broadcast' across cities and screens of all kinds. These screen tests, Jung says, served as the main inspiration for the livestream series which kicked off the campaign.
Exploring new forms of broadcast: livestreaming and social media
First launched in China on October 8th to kick off the start of the 11.11 shopping season, the first 'Beauty Broadcast' livestream was held in SK-II's T-Mall flagship store and was broadcasted from the UCCA Centre of Contemporary Art, home to 'Becoming Andy Warhol', the most comprehenseive Warhol exhibition in China to date.
The livestream series with its KOL outreach has garnered 8 million views so far. It featured SK-II brand ambassadors and celebrity art lovers mixing music, commerce and art while sharing their take on Warhol's abovementioned beauty philosophy.
"Andy Warhol's works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture," Jung explains. "In our current era of digital and social media, we couldn’t think of any better broadcast medium than livestream to reimagine ‘Andy Warhol TV’ and bring this to our consumers in the most engaging way."
Beyond this, the integrated campaign involves elements including the brand film running across key social media platforms, namely Douyin, Weibo, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. There is also an Andy Warhol X SK-II Arcade involving a gamified virtual 'SK-II City' where visitors can go on a three-stage process to learn about Pitera, how to use it, recycle its packaging and redeem product rewards.
The art of connective collaborations
Many in the art world will bristle at the prospect of borrowing an artist's name, work and ideas to promote consumer goods. Warhol, of course, turned the promotion of consumer goods into art, which makes partnerships like these far more palatable. While the financial terms of this deal are confidential, the Andy Warhol Foundation's Dayton Hermann nonetheless expressed his 'delight' that this SK-II project would "generously support" their philanthropic work to support artist communities including marginalised ones.
Meanwhile on the brand side there is just as much risk, given how much controversy
followed the artist's life and even his Foundation afterwards. Yet for SK-II, the collaboration is unique differentiator appealing to progressive consumers whom the brand is confident will interpret the message of the media in a positive way.
"We are always pushing the boundaries of brand building and finding fresh and meaningful ways to connect with our consumers," Jung tells Campaign, pointing to past campaigns like 'Bare Skin Chat
''s use of comedy, or the 'VS Series
' mixing animation and live action to depict how live athletes stand up to societal pressures. One could easily go back further and add others to that list, including Marriage Market Takeover
and the fight of so-called 'leftover women' to challenge traditional marriage pressures.
"With Andy Warhol X SK-II Limited Edition, the crossover between beauty and art is another way for us to communicate with our consumers," Jung says. "Consumers have various kinds of interests, and art is something very critical for their generation. With art, it allowed us to express the brand’s philosophy that everyone is beautiful in a new and interesting way for the younger generation."
This story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.