The Joker’s Army

 Next Summer’s sequel to Batman Begins – The Dark Knight – may go down in history as a the first movie to truly leverage the new world of interactive & viral marketing. For almost a year preceding the release, Warner Bros. has been doing some really innovative work to get fans excited, and really allow us to engage with the brand in a new and exciting way.

Here’s an overview, as best as I can piece together, of all the components that are part of this viral campaign thanks to a few different blogs (linked-back throughout) for doing a lot of the real legwork.

Here’s how it all started, thanks to the Catchup Lady’s blog:

Batman1 1. Awhile ago a static site, featuring just the image at left appeared online.Batman2

2.   Recently, unbranded posters  featuring the image at right appeared in some major cities (LA is confirmed).  Around the same time, the static Dark Knight site began to link through to the I Believe In Harvey Dent website, which featured an identical image.

Batman3 3. Within 48 – 72 hours, all of the posters in major cities were defaced to resemble the image seen at the URL I Believe in Harvey Dent Too (at left).  If you went to that URL the site would ask for your email address.  After you submitted (reusabale database anyone?) you were sent an email with the coordinates for a pixel that you could removeBatman4 from the site.

4.  With users able to remove just one pixel each, a viral effort was underway to spread the word to get others to register and remove a pixel.  In less than a day, thousands and thousands of unique visitors had visited the site to remove a pixel – ultimately revealing the face of the new Joker, Heath Ledger. 

Batman5 5.  It doesn’t stop there.  If you visit I Believe In Harvey Dent Too now, you get a black error page with a message “Page not found.”  But, if you highlight the page with your mouse you see the message at left – an almost unending series of Ha ha ha’s. 

6.  If you truncate those Ha ha’s, the only letters left read “See You In December.” 

7.  In case you’re curious, http://www.seeyouindecember.com has already been bought by 42 Entertainment.  What’s more, Joker cards have started appearing at bookstores and other highly trafficked locales in various cities.  Stay tuned for details friends, this thing ain’t over.

 That was everything that had been pieced together by Pronet Advertising and others when the Catch Up Lady posted in May. Here’s where it got even more interesting, as Joker took steps to grow his organization: 

According to Wikipedia.org’s entry on the The Dark Knight:

During the 2007 Comic-Con International, the website WhySoSerious.com was launched, sending fans on a scavenger hunt to unlock a teaser trailer and a new photo of the Joker.[75]

A viral website for The Dark Knight had photos sent in by fans of letters they had been directed to, uncovering the Joker's message,

A viral website for The Dark Knight had photos sent in by fans of letters they had been directed to, uncovering the Joker’s message, “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules”

Here’s an account of an online recruiting effort. It mentions that there were coordinates leading to a field across the street from ComicCon. Turns out a writer got wind of this. Here is another article detailing the writer’s journey on the real scavenger hunt the day of ComicCon.

During the month of October 2007, WhySoSerious.com showed an animated jack-o’-lantern whose mouth was shaped like a bat logo. The jack-o’-lantern had a candle that melted as time progressed, and half of the pumpkin’s face also deteriorated. On Halloween on October 31, 2007, the viral website changed into another scavenger hunt with hidden messages, instructing fans to uncover clues at certain locations in major cities throughout the United States and to take photographs of their discoveries. The combined clues resulted in showing a new photograph of the Joker from the film and a one-line audio recording from Ledger as the Joker. The completion of the scavenger hunt also led to another viral site called “Rory’s Death Kiss“,where fans could submit photographs of themselves costumed as the Joker at various landscapes. Those who sent photos were mailed a copy of a fictional newspaper The Gotham Times, the online version of which led to the discovery of numerous websites.

Good as his word, on December 3rd, The Joker reappared, with a slew of new puzzles. Most strikingly, the Joker is now recruiting. Click here to see a frequently updated blog that includes all the various viral marketing sites – there are now dozens – that have popped up. The key to much of it has stemmed from clues in issues of the The Gotham Times that were delivered to fans who uploaded pics to Rory’s Death Kiss. Excerpt from this article at FirstShowing.net.

On December 3rd a new page appeared at whysoserious.com/steprightup with a hammer game and some teddy bear toys. Each toy had an address on it located in a number of cities around the US. The note on the game told people to go to that address and say their name was “Robin Banks” (get it, “Robbing Banks”) and they’d get something there. It was first come, first serve, and each location was a bakery. What they were given was a cake with a phone number written on it. Now here’s the best part: inside the cake was an evidence bag (complete with Gotham City Police printing) that contained a cell phone, a charger, a Joker playing card and a note with instructions.

The note read the following:

“Wow. You really took the cake! Now put the icing on it. Call [number] immediately from this phone and this phone only. Do not give this phone number to anyone else.

Let’s hope your fellow goons come through as well as you. Once all the layers are in place, you’ll all get your just desserts. I’m a man of my word.”

When the person called the number, a lady answered from Rent-a-Clown to thank the caller. Apparently she said she knew who the caller was and then after hanging up, they received a text message. It read:

“Good work, clown! Keep this phone charged and with you at all times. Don’t call me. I will call you … eventually.”

If you can believe it, the Joker now has real, live people recruited to his army sitting with a phone awaiting his call. I thought this stuff only happened IN movies, not FOR movies!

Additionally, once all the cakes were handed out, a new page was linked where users can sign-up to receive a free screening pass on Thursday night at 7PM to see I Am Legend in IMAX which will include the first 7-minutes of The Dark Knight that was filmed specifically for IMAX. Another link also revealed the first teaser poster.

I searched for like an hour last week but couldn’t find a video of the six minutes from the IMAX screening. The only copy that I found had been taken down off YouTube. But here’s a really-poor-quality version of the first six minute of the movie for your viewing pleasure:

http://www.movieweb.com/v/V07L13gorBJKOQ

Personally, I’m really impressed. They’ve taken something that people are passionate about – Batman – and really taken it to a new level. We’re being allowed to get involved, to interact with the franchise. We want to get excited and they’re responding with something to get excited about. From a marketing perspective it is simply brilliant – they’ve spent almost nothing – just the cost to erect these websites, an, and some basic logistics like the phones, the cakes, the clues, etc. – and in return have gotten tens of thousands of fans engaged, each one blogging and talking about it. The most powerful thing about all of this is that it really makes the movie come to life. You’re not just playing a game online before the movie comes out. You’re playing a game, solving challenging puzzles, and at the end of it you’re getting a real cellphone. You’re going to a real store to find the next clue. This isn’t even marketing. This is just a giant game for us to play. They’re no longer making a movie. They’re building an experience.  And that’s just the beginning. Who knows what Joker will command this new army to do. If nothing else, continued viral marketing for this movie will raise the word of mouth to a fever pitch by opening day. Bravo.

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