It was the shredding heard around the world. Iconic street artist Banksy remotely tore up his own painting moments after its sale for $1.4 million— and then brands including McDonald’s, IKEA, and Lemonade capitalized on the gesture, riddling the move that was meant to protest commercialization with irony.
Soon after Banksy’s stunt, McDonald’s posted images of red- and yellow-enveloped fries on Instagram and Facebook. It makes sense that McDonald’s would flip over the viral vanishing act: when it comes to being in the right place at the right time, the hamburger hub is king. As many as 70% of the brand’s ad impressions are served through direct buys on high-traffic sites like YouTube, ESPN, and NFL.com, signaling that it has an eye on where consumers are heading, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants. Adding yet another layer of irony to the situation, Banksy fans will recall that the artist took aim at Ronald McDonald, McDonald’s mascot since 1963, just five years ago.
Though IKEA fell short against its peers in digital sophistication last year, it is known for newsjacking viral stories, most famously mocking Balenciaga’s knockoff of its $1 shopping bag. This time, it followed suit with an appropriately minimalist post of a painting in flux, complete with scissors and even instructions on how to properly destroy the piece of art. Most recently, insurance app Lemonade managed the last laugh with a version of the vanishing valuable itself, shredding to reveal some wise words for anyone with something worth losing.
After experiencing relatively flat interest in the past year, the search term “Banksy” reached peak popularity this month. It’s unclear what the motive behind Banksy’s avante-garde magic trick might actually have been, but one thing is for sure: brands of all sectors and sizes can benefit from a good old-fashioned viral trend, as long as they recognize the irony.