I think it’s fair to say that I am a Batman fan. I think it’s also fair to say that I am not alone in this ““ by far ““ and the level to which my husband and I take our fandom is certainly not unique (see images for this post for evidence). Yet, I know that where I am alone is in my total lack of interest in The Dark Knight Rises. You’re probably asking yourself why, and I’m happy to tell you.
My main issue is that Warner Bros took its marketing in-house and decided to simply coast on the success of The Dark Knight.
And, as a fan, this offends me on the deepest level.
It succeeded because of a dead guy…
The Dark Knight was a success for a number of reasons. First, it was the sequel to the immensely surprising and popular film Batman Begins, which was the Batman film we didn’t know we were waiting for. Second, it featured the Joker, Batman’s most famous (and most fun) arch-enemy, in an all new, gory, grotesque light with an over-the-top-yet-just-perfect performance that even in tiny snippets from trailers was truly terrifying. Third, it was the last film of a very promising and talented young actor who died suddenly. Fourth, and finally, the film’s release was the culmination of a superb and elegantly executed viral marketing campaign on the part of 42 Entertainment for Warner Bros.
And it’s these last two things that are the real markers for the success of the film.
When word first started to leak that Nolan was doing a second Batman film, and that we was doing it with the Joker, the ears of fans around the world perked up. Seeming to fully understand the power of internet marketing, Warner hired 42 Entertainment, a renowned marketing company to harness the raw power of the internet nerd for their own purposes.
Total immersion in Gotham City
Over the course of the year before the film came out there were regular marketing initiatives that eventually allowed for a total immersion in the world of Gotham and the plight of its citizens. You could go to the website for Gotham Bank and find out how to open an account. You could go to the Gotham Cable News network’s website and watch videos for the Dent campaign. You could even go to the local public school’s website and get details on which bus your child needed to board to get to the upcoming field trip.
And that was just the start. There was Citizens for Batman, which held in-person events at regular intervals (and if there wasn’t one near you, they mailed you stuff if you signed up). There were scavenger hunts to get screenings of trailers (at which you won a physical print of the trailer itself). There was a never-ending stream of online activities, puzzles and happenings. They shone the Bat-signal on the side of buildings in New York and Chicago, for heaven’s sake, and then just when you thought it was a lame event, they gave everyone free tickets to a screening four days before opening that was just for people who participated in the virals.**
I must confess that participating in The Dark Knight‘s viral marketing campaign took up a great deal of my summer of 2008.
Cheaping out and coasting
And yet, this time around, the cheap brilliant minds at Warner Bros decided to take their marketing in-house and tried to replicate the virals from 2008 in the most lack-luster way possible, largely banking on the idea that “we don’t really need to do too much, because people are going to come see it anyway, so why bother?”
There have been some interactive and slightly interesting bits, like some stickers and Bat-graffiti, but nothing immersive. Nothing exciting. Pre-screenings for fans have essentially come down to either winning something from a radio station or buying Mountain Dew.
So why does this bother me so much? Because they stopped trying. They don’t care. They’re abusing the privilege of having fans invest in your property.
In 2008 you rewarded me for my fandom, Warner Bros. In 2012 you relied on it. And that is simply not okay.
Although, none of this actually matters because The Dark Knight Rises looks like a mess. But that’s another blog post for another time.
(**Note: There is actually too much in this campaign to detail in this post, but Google it and spend some time looking at just how awesome it was. You’ll see. There’s a whole wiki for it. That’s how awesome it was.)
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