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A Specialisation Project 360o Ad Campaign For An Indie Movie Submitted by Rachit Agarwal BJMC III C Enrolment no: A2004708053 Under the supervision of Mr. Amit Kumar Dutta Amity School of communication Amity University Date of final submission 22nd March 2011
What I’ve researched was based purely on the drive to finish what I started. How I came to choose this topic is an older story. The topic is something that has always intrigued me to learn more about and let other people know about it.
Though I’d like to thank many people in helping me complete this project which includes many of my teachers and casual acquaintances, I’d like to thank in this acknowledgement a few of my friends and peers without whose assistance this project could not have come into being. It is my belief that no project or work is completely individual even if it’s someone’s brainchild. I’d like to personally thank Mr. Ankit Arya, Mr. Siddharth Behl, Mr. Ankur Banerjee, Mr. Vivek Nair, Mr. Punya Vats, Ms. Nivriti Gupta, Ms. Agnetha Ayson and Mr. Harshvardhan Kumar.
Certificate of completion
This certificate is to authorize and authenticate my completion of my final project for bachelors in journalism and mass communication. The topic titled ‘360-degree ad campaign for an indie movie’ under the ‘Advertising’ elective under the guidance of Mr. Amit Kumar Dutta was completed and duly submitted in time well before or on the final date of submission.
22nd March 2011
Mr. Amit Kumar Dutta
My topic looks to take a look at the prevailing trends in advertising a film effectively and efficiently. This will be achieved by taking one film of each size (big budget Hollywood, medium budget, and independent) and studying the tactics used to make people aware about them. The movies have been chosen so that they showcase some innovation in advertising. The key was to highlight not the mundane, but the eye popping. The topic looks to study the campaigns for these movies, study the similarities between them, note the innovations, and then finally to generalize them and create an ad campaign (hopefully) as intriguing as the ones cited. The research was majorly qualitative in nature, and not quantitative. Case studies and other researches have been quoted and taken as examples. It also includes a lot of self study and research. My research findings are mostly illustrative, and open to interpretation. The research isn’t out to prove a point, just understand the trends and methods. In a poetic sense ‘I learnt what I set out to learn’. The observations correspond with the objective. As a recommendation to other researchers tackling a similar topic, I’d say that this topic, based on the zeitgeist as it is, needs to be revisited constantly. No one research would ever be complete or current.
Table of contents
Chapter Introduction to the research study A brief introduction Kick Ass Plot Synopsis Marketing Kick Ass Cloverfield Plot Synopsis Marketing Cloverfield The Dark Knight Plot Synopsis Marketing The Dark Knight Limitations of the Research Findings and Analysis: My Conclusions Summary, conclusion and recommendations Appendix Page no 12 13 14 14 15 29 29 30 43 43 44 67 68 75 76
Introduction to the research Study
To study one film of from each of the three budget slabs (big, medium and independent) that somehow broke away from the clutter by virtue of their inventive ad campaigns. These films opened new vistas, and new avenues for advertising. They showed that in this day and age, where the studios are criticized for releasing by-the-numbers movies advertised in conventional ways, or where the prohibitive media costs spells doom for indie films, the audience still wants to experience something fresh. In other words, the audience appreciates it when a film respects their intelligence. The films provided hooks for the audience to latch on to by having their campaigns create unique, immersive experiences. Films chosen: Big budget: The Dark Knight Medium Budget: Cloverfield Independent: Kick Ass Hypothesis Getting the audience interested about a film does not depend on the budget of the ad campaign. Objective To understand how movies can be marketed, and apply the findings to market a hypothetical movie. Review of literature Marketing overviews published by Chris on Movie Marketing Madness (moviemarketingmadness.com) Box office stats from Box Office Mojo Blog posts from /Film Blog posts from The Movie Blog Blog posts from Cinematical Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics by Robert Marich Marketing material for The Dark Knight (by Warner Bros.) Marketing material for Cloverfield (by Paramount Pictures) Marketing material for Kick Ass (by Legendary Pictures) Kick-Ass – The Harsh Reality Of Virtual Marketing by Barry Steele (from heyyouguys.co.uk) Marketing Movies Online by Gunjan Bagla (from imediaconnection.com) Guardian.co.uk Traileraddict.com Wikipedia
A Brief Introduction
With my final project I hope to achieve an insight into the how best to advertise a movie. To set a challenge for myself, and to mirror circumstances I could face in the future, I would apply my observations to device a hypothetical ad campaign for a hypothetical independent film. By its very nature, an independent movie would offer a very limited budget for advertising, hence stretching me and making me utilize all mediums to their fullest. For the purpose of the study, three films were chosen as case studies. These films were chosen keeping in mind their target demographic. At the same time, care was also taken to include only films which had made a significant impact on the way movies are advertised (or grabbed eyeballs). One film from each budget size (big, medium and independent) was chosen, to subliminally drive home the point that the budget has little to no bearing on the impact of the advertising (only if the advertising is done well). The movies hence chosen are: Big: The Dark Knight Medium: Cloverfield Indie: Kick Ass All three films were able to generate a considerable amount of buzz prior to their release, even though their budgets ranged from the rather lofty $185 million to a measly $25 million. This buzz was seen specially in their opening weekend box office hauls (for the sake of levelling the playing field out a bit more, we will consider both the overall opening weekend BO hauls, and the opening weekend per-screen-average). As Gunjan Bagla puts it: In most industries, brands are built over years, sometimes decades. The theatrical release of movies is unique, because its current formula for success relies on building a brand in a few weeks. While press and buzz are important, heavy advertising is a requirement to drive awareness, favourability and to finally get “butts in seats” as Hollywood likes to put it. Box office revenue on the first weekend is used as a predictor of the lifetime value of each movie title, including future revenue from payper-view, DVD releases, international rights, etc. Careers are made and unmade in Monday morning meetings at many studios, and there is seldom a second chance if your advertising did not resonate prior to that crucial opening weekend. Apart from the film case studies, I also poured over promotional material for other movies, observing the patterns and monitoring the reactions of fanboys on the internet. Being an ardent movie geek, I have in a way been preparing for this report my whole life. While the other campaigns aren’t explicitly cited, relevant reactions are included in the Observations section. Some of the reactions overflow with praise, while a lot of them just go on to demonstrate the various clichés adopted by Hollywood, especially in poster design.
Director: Matthew Vaughn Starring Aaron Johnson Christopher Mintz-Plasse Chloë Moretz Nicolas Cage Mark Strong Budget: $28 million Opening Weekend: $19,828,687 ($6,469 per-screen-average) Gross Revenue: $96,188,903
Plot Synopsis (from Wikipedia)
Dave Lizewski, an ordinary teenager, becomes a real-life superhero in New York City, despite having no superpowers. After his first crime-fighting encounter leaves him with permanent nerve damage, he gains an enhanced capacity to endure pain, and surgical implants required to repair multiple skeletal fractures give him resistance to further bone-crushing injuries. His effort to conceal the truth, claiming he had had his clothes thrown off after being mugged, leads to rumours that he is gay. His long-time crush, Katie Deauxma immediately attempts to become his friend, having always wanted a "gay BFF." Dave hesitantly goes along with it. After intervening in a gang attack, Dave's actions are recorded by a bystander and put on the internet. Calling himself "Kick-Ass," he sets up a MySpace account so he can be contacted for help. After responding to a request from Katie, he goes to deal with a drug dealer, Rasul, who has been harassing her. Rasul and his thugs quickly overpower him, but he is rescued by 11-year old vigilante Hit-Girl, who kills his attackers and then leaves with her father, Big Daddy. They believe he has potential, but warn him to be more careful, and give him a way to contact them if needed. Big Daddy is Damon Macready, a former cop who has a long-standing grudge with crime boss Frank D'Amico for framing him as a drug dealer, leading to the suicide of his wife. His former partner at the New York Police Department, Marcus Williams, became guardian to his daughter, Mindy. Big Daddy, however, has reclaimed Mindy and is training her to be a skilled crime-fighter, against Marcus' wishes, hoping to take down D'Amico, starting by sabotaging his organisation. D'Amico, however, is led to believe that it is Kick-Ass who is responsible for Big Daddy's actions, and embarks on a campaign to eliminate him. His son, Chris, suggests a different approach. He assumes the role of vigilante "Red Mist," in order to befriend Kick-Ass and lure him into a trap. But the trap is undone by Big Daddy, who independently kills D'Amico's men and sets the building on fire. Following his escape from the warehouse fire, Dave determines to quit being Kick-Ass. He confesses the truth to Katie, and she forgives him and becomes his girlfriend. A week later, Dave finds a series of urgent messages from Red Mist, requesting they meet. Saying he must do one more thing as KickAss, he meets Red Mist, who is actually using him as a ruse to lead the D'Amico thugs to Big Daddy. Upon arriving at an intended meeting place, D'Amico's men storm the place and capture Big Daddy, taking Kick-Ass with them. D'Amico intends to have his thugs torture and execute his captives in a live Internet broadcast viewed by millions, including Katie and Marcus, who are both powerless to intervene. Hit-Girl, who survived the shooting, arrives and kills all the gangsters; during the struggle one thug sets Big Daddy on fire. He and Hit-Girl say a tearful farewell before he succumbs to his injuries. Kick-Ass tries to convince Hit-Girl to quit her dangerous lifestyle, but she plans to finish what her father started, and Kick-Ass reluctantly agrees to help. In the assault on D'Amico's headquarters, Hit-Girl kills most of the henchmen but runs out of ammunition and is pinned in the penthouse kitchen under fire. Kick-Ass arrives in the nick of time on a jet pack fitted with Gatling guns, and kills the remaining thugs. Kick-Ass and Hit-
Girl then take on D'Amico and his son. Kick-Ass fights Red Mist but they manage to knock each other out. Hit-Girl fights D'Amico, but she is eventually overpowered. As D'Amico is about to finish off Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass comes to the rescue armed with the rocket launcher, blasting D'Amico out of the window where he explodes in mid-air. Red Mist revives in time to see Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl leaving on the jet pack, and is powerless to stop them. Mindy and Dave retire from crime fighting to live a more normal life. Mindy returns to live with Marcus, and enrols at Dave's school. Dave explains that although he is done with crime fighting, a new "generation" of superheroes have been inspired by his endeavour, and the city is safer as a result. Red Mist is shown donning a new mask as he quotes Jack Nicholson as the Joker, "As a great man once said, 'Wait till they get a load of me'.”
Marketing Kick Ass
The source book (which I’ll admit to not having read) is reportedly crass and violent and, based on the marketing we’re about to take a look at, the movie doesn’t seem to deviate from that too wildly. The Posters With such a colourful cast of characters there were bound to be a plethora of posters created and the marketing team has certainly delivered on that front. The first batch of teasers placed each of the main characters – Red Mist, Kick-Ass himself, Hit Girl and Big Daddy – in that most clichéd of super-hero poses, that of standing atop a building and looking over the city they’ve sworn to protect triumphantly and with a sense of entitlement and ownership. When you put the four posters together in the order outlined above the title of the movie is spelled out in the sky, which is a nice touch and certainly an incentive for collectors excited about the movie to seek out the one-sheets and webmasters to reprint this group excitedly. A second batch of teaser one-sheets again featured each individual character, but in different poses and with more colour-coded backgrounds. Each one also got its own little saying that deflated the idea they were actually had any powers but did emphasize what they could do, which is kick your ass. So Kick Ass’ poster says “I can’t fly. But I can kick your ass.” and so on. Each also contained a URL to what appeared to be a character-specific website but those addresses, when entered, just redirected to the movie’s official site. Not content with two bites at the apple there was a third set created and released that toned down the clever and just presented the four characters bursting through the title treatment with a burst of color in their wake. While three series of character-centric posters for a movie with only four main characters it’s showing off might seem…excessive…it did serve the purpose of creating a steady stream of publicity on movie blogs and elsewhere. That kept the movie in the audience’s mind and kept them talking about it in the interim between filming and release. A theatrical poster took the same visual style as the last of the teaser series, with the bold, block letter title treatment in the background and the four characters standing in the front and above the little bit of non-credit block copy on the poster that states definitively “Shut up. Kick ass.” It certainly looks like the kind of image that might be created for a comic trade paperback and is pretty cool, finishing off the poster component of the campaign nicely, even if I think it was developed and released before series three of the teasers.
Character Poster Series #1
Character Teaser #1
Character Teaser #2
Character Teaser #3
Character Teaser #4
Character Teaser #5
Character Teaser #6
Character Teaser #7
Character Teaser #8
The Trailers The first all ages trailer starts off with a shot of a winged hero standing atop a building ready to take flight. As he prepares we get voiceover asking why no one has thought of being a super-hero before since their lives can’t be so interesting as to not need a little adventure mixed in. When the winged figure takes off he plummets straight down, eventually landing with a deadly thud on top of a taxi as the voiceover informs us that’s not him, that’s some dude with mental problems. After a brief shot of the main character and his friends discussing whether or not becoming a hero is possible we get a “putting on the costume” scene we’re then shown quickly the other everyday heroes before we finally get the “I’m Kick Ass” scene. The second trailer starts off with the friends discussing how probable it is that anyone who tried to be a super hero would wind up seriously injured very shortly but then provides a little more background into the guy who would be Kick Ass before showing him suiting up. That initial appearance, we’re told via news footage, inspires others to take up similar mantles and so we’re introduced more fully to Big Daddy, Hit Girl and Red Mist as they seek to fight crime on their own terms. We also get a better idea of what they’re going up against as we see a crime leader of some sort (played by Mark Strong) and what his reaction to the rise of costumed vigilantes is and what sort of havoc they’re playing with his operations. A third and much shorter trailer really served as a greatest hits compilation of the ones that had come before. I don’t think there’s any new footage in there but it does introduce all four characters once again and get to the idea that these are just ordinary people who have decided to take the law into their own hands. Or at least that they’ve decided to stop allowing innocent people to take a beating without doing anything. Because the movie was rated R and it was doing so well in establishing its hard core cred, a red-band trailer was also introduced that included more language and mentions of the primary hero’s masturbatory tendencies. It also contained a few more graphic shots of the backs of people’s heads being blown off. Some of that language would come out of the mouth of the young girl who plays Hit Girl, which would result in some hand-wringing by media and other critics that we’ll talk more about later on. Online When you load the official website the primary menu shows briefly before giving way to the trailer, which you can also share on a variety of social networks or embed on your own blog. Closing that you’ll see the main page has prompts to Buy Tickets Now as well as a list of theatres showing sneak peeks which seems to be generated based on the location of your computer’s IP address. There are also links to read reviews on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, which is somewhat unusual and shows what faith the marketers are putting in word of mouth peer reviews. When you enter the site the first thing you’re prompted to do is play some light games, which if you register will get you points you can redeem later on. Each character icon brings you to a different game that’s associated with that character’s skills in the story. Moving to the site’s content menu, “About” has a decent paragraph write-up of the film’s story and characters. The “Cast and Crew” section is one of the best-designed such executions seen in recent times with its big icons for each actor that leads you to information on their background and biography. There are 12 stills from the movie in “Photos” and “Videos” contains the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers as well as a handful of clips from the movie that extend scenes that are
teased in the trailers. “Downloads” has four character-centric Wallpapers and Icons that use the same images from one of the teaser poster series. The “Restricted” section contains direct links to things like Watch Hardcore Videos (the restricted trailer) and an Adults Only Soundboard as well as more that prompts you to take various actions with foul-mouthed language, including a call to grab an embeddable widget, something I haven’t seen in a while. “Partners” has links to the content hubs at sites like IGN and UGO as well as information on buying movie-branded goods by French Connection and Vans. There are also links to the Lionsgate YouTube channel and information on the film’s soundtrack. The “News” section has photos from the movie’s screening at SXSW, a music video from Mika and photos from the UK premiere. There are also embedded updates from the studio’s Twitter feed and when you click “See All Updates” you’re taken to that profile. Finally the “Store” lets you buy movie t-shirts and other goodies from Gold Label. Each character also got their own Facebook page, something that must have cost the studio a healthy sum considering Facebook’s policies on making sure you are who you say you are on the network. When you visited the pages for Kick Ass, Red Mist, Big Daddy or Hit Girl you were prompted to both enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to the premiere or enter a contest by uploading video of you in your super-hero costume and showing off your moves. Each character’s page also had plenty of information about that particular character as well as links ot the other’s profiles, the official site, links to the Demand It campaign and a Wall’s worth of links to coverage of new marketing materials and more about the movie. The movie’s MySpace page had the trailers, some clips and links to the same contests and sweepstakes mentioned before. There was a sited called Real Life Superheroes that was kind of…weird. It’s obviously part of the campaign for the movie – banner ads for the flick are all over the place – but it also seems to exist in a world of such characters, encouraging people to create profiles for their own heroes. The Lionsgate YouTube channel was retro-fitted to be a hub for people to submit their own video review after seeing the movie. The main channel page also contained a stream of commentary about the movie from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a stream powered by a service called @ThisMoment, integration it and the movie got a bit of press out of. Likewise the studio’s Twitter channel contained steady updates on the movie’s publicity and links to what it felt was important commentary. Advertising and Cross-Promotions A ton of advertising has been done, including the creation of quite a few TV spots, many of which took the form of trimmed trailers and featured little new material. Still, they’re effective at conveying the overall attitude of the movie to an audience, though there’s the concern that without the additional time that can be used for more explanation there’s going to be the belief that this is a straight super-hero movie. The expanded trailers make it clearer that it’s taking a drastically different approach to the genre but that doesn’t come through as loudly in 30-second spots. There has been a good amount of outdoor advertising as well as well as some online and, one would assume, in print. Most of that as would be expected has repurposed any of the poster campaign’s art.
Media and Publicity After an early appearance at Butt-Numb-a-Thon, the movie had its official coming out party with a screening on opening night of SXSW 2010. In fact the movie’s presence there included a number of vans to shuttle people around that were decorated with key art elements, which is kind of cool since transportation at festivals is always an issue. In terms of media coverage a good amount came after the release of some restricted clips that featured foul language, some of which came out of the mouth of young Chloe Grace Moretz, the girl who plays Hit Girl. That led to a lot of commentary about not only whether red-band trailers are appropriate given their propensity to appear on non-age restricted sites (New York Times, 2/24/10) but also on the fact that an 11 year old girl was saying such things, including lots of references to sexual themes. That focus on Moretz and her role in such a graphic, both verbally and physically, movie continued to be covered in the press (New York Times, 4/11/10) and actually became a central component of a lot of stories (Los Angeles Times, 4/14/10) even those stories that were just about how offensive and incendiary the movie is in general, as well as leading to discussions of gender politics and related issues. Regardless of what traditional mainstream or trade press coverage the movie has gotten, the real thing going for Kick Ass is the word of mouth that has been building up for well on a year now. Fans have been absolutely salivating for this movie and have eaten up every new clip, every new trailer, and every new preview at a festival or convention. And that campaign has fed that hunger with a steady release of material that has kept the movie never far from topof-mind and so fuelled the conversations about it and therefore the anticipation for it. Indeed it seemed to be pegged by some as the pinnacle (Los Angeles Times, 4/15/10) of the comic/movie geek’s world. Overall For as sprawling as it can sometimes seem, Lionsgate has actually put together a tight and amazingly consistent campaign here. All the components come back to the same four or five themes and hit the same notes, even if they take different paths to get there, leading to an overall campaign that feels familiar wherever you encounter it while also seeming fresh and new in each venue. What it does is play to its strengths – and presumably the strengths of the movie – time and time again. So there’s violence, language and a “Hey you know what, let’s just go for broke and let the chips fall where they may” attitude that pervades the entire campaign. It knows fans are expecting the outrageous and so, whenever possible, delivers on that expectation. It also works really hard to get the audience’s approval. That’s why there are three waves of teaser posters and so many released clips and other elements to get people talking. It really wants people to like it and so will deliver just what it needs to in order to achieve that, which is actually different from most marketing. The marketers don’t just want the movie to be chosen, they want it to be chosen above all else because people are excited and have devised a campaign to create that level of appreciation and excitement, which is where it succeeds as a whole aside from any of the individual elements.
Director: Matt Reeves Starring Michael Stahl-David T. J. Miller Jessica Lucas Odette Yustman Lizzy Caplan Mike Vogel Budget: $25 million Opening Weekend: $40,058,229 ($11,744 per-screen-average) Gross Revenue: $170,764,026
Plot Synopsis (from Wikipedia)
The film is presented as if it were a video segment recovered from a personal video camera by the United States Department of Defense. The film begins with a disclaimer stating that the footage is of a case designated "Cloverfield" and was found in the area "formerly known as Central Park". The video consists chiefly of segments taped the night of May 22 and the morning of May 23. However, those newer segments were inadvertently taped over older video that was filmed on April 27, of a romantic day shared by the characters Rob and Beth. So, as the newer, horrific video stops and starts, the viewer sees glimpses of the earlier, happier day. The first video segment opens when Rob wakes up on the morning of April 27 having slept with Beth, a previously platonic friend. They make plans to go to Coney Island that day. The footage suddenly cuts to May 22, when Rob's brother Jason and his girlfriend Lily prepare a farewell party for Rob who will be moving to Japan. At the party, their friend Hud uses the camera to film testimonials for Rob. While recording, Hud flirts unsuccessfully with Marlena, another party guest. After Beth leaves the party following an argument with Rob, an apparent earthquake strikes, and the city suffers a brief power outage. The local news reports that an oil tanker has capsized near Liberty Island. After going upstairs to investigate the disaster, a devastating explosion that destroys much of Lower Manhattan causes the party-goers to evacuate the building and witness the head of the Statue of Liberty crashing nearby in the street, with several stunning scratch and bite marks. Hud records what appears to be a giant hand of a creature several blocks away. Many take shelter in a convenience store as the Woolworth Building collapses. Rob, Jason, Lily, Hud and Marlena attempt to escape Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge. A gigantic tail destroys the centre span of the bridge, killing Jason and hundreds of others. The survivors are forced to flee back to Manhattan. Rob listens to Beth's message saying she is trapped in her apartment and unable to move. The news shows the United States Army's 42nd Infantry Division attacking the monster and smaller, vicious creatures that are falling off its body. Several creatures are seen attacking soldiers and civilians on the ground. As hundreds attempt to flee, Rob, Hud, Lily, and Marlena venture out to rescue Beth. They are soon caught in a crossfire between the monster and the military, and escape into a subway station. They decide to go through the subway tunnels to reach Beth's apartment, but are attacked by several of the smaller creatures that dropped from the monster earlier. One of them wounds Marlena. The group escapes into the Bloomingdale's department store where they are met by a squad of soldiers, who have set up a field hospital and command centre in
the store. As Rob tries to garner assistance for Beth, Marlena's eyes start bleeding and she is taken away behind a curtain by men wearing hazmat suits where she inflates, then explodes. One of the military leaders allows the others to leave but warns them to report to a military evacuation site before 6:00 am, which is when the last helicopter will evacuate Manhattan before the military enacts its so-called "Hammer Down Protocol," which involves a massive aerial bombardment of the city, in an effort to destroy the monster. The group finds Beth's apartment tower at the Time Warner Centre has collapsed against the centre’s other tower. They climb the standing tower and cross onto the roof of Beth's building and work their way down to her apartment. Beth is found, but trapped, and the group is able to free her. After her rescue, the four make their way to the evacuation site where they encounter the monster once more over Grand Central Station. Ignoring the firepower from the military, the creature now gives chase to the group toward the evacuation centre. Lily is raced into a departing helicopter without her friends. Moments later, Rob, Beth and Hud are taken away in a second helicopter and witness a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomb the monster. Just as Hud begins hailing victory over the monster, it lunges out of the wreckage and attacks the helicopter, causing it to crash into a grassy clearing in Central Park. The film restarts later in the morning, with a voice on the crashed helicopter's radio warning that the Hammer Down Protocol will begin in 15 minutes and states that anyone able to hear the sirens is within the blast zone. The three friends are all alive and have regained consciousness. Hud and Beth pull Rob, who is injured, from the helicopter wreckage, but Hud returns to recover the camera. The monster is then seen standing over him, and Hud is oblivious to Rob and Beth pleading for him to run. Hud only watches the monster in terror, recording it with the camera. After regarding him for a moment, the monster lunges at Hud and kills him in its mandibles, dropping his corpse and the camera on the ground. Rob and Beth grab the still-recording camera and take shelter under Greyshot Arch in Central Park as air raid sirens begin to blare and bombers are heard in the distance, indicating that the Hammer Down Protocol is about to begin. Rob and Beth take turns leaving their last testimonies of the day, which Rob mentions as Saturday, May 23, on camera. Numerous explosions occur outside as the massive bombing sortie takes place, and the creature is heard roaring in pain. As the bridge crumbles and debris covers the camera, Rob and Beth can be heard professing their love to one another as another bomb destroys the bridge, stopping the camera's recording. The film then cuts to the footage of Rob and Beth's Coney Island date before the disaster. In the distance, unnoticed by Rob and Beth, a large object falls into the ocean.
To understand just how fervent the buzz had been about the movie, one needs to look at how Paramount sold the movie in two completely different ways to two completely different audiences. 1. Campaign The First (Or, We Are Selling You A Movie Which You May Like to See) This campaign was, for the most part, made up of the traditional elements of a movie marketing push. The intent was clearly to sell the movie to a particular audience using, as most campaigns do, clips and other material from the movie in order to build interest and enthusiasm. The first trailer debuted in front of summer 2007’s blockbuster Transformers. Aside from a few reports on AICN, ComingSoon and a handful of other sites the trailer mostly took
the audience by surprise. And even those members of the audience who knew a trailer for a new, mysterious J.J. Abrams would be appearing didn’t know what they were about to see. Certainly a big enough chunk of the audience was shocked and awed and the ensuing wave of online commentary was massive. Everyone, it seemed, came out of seeing Transformers and searched for this movie, untitled in the trailer, that seemed to chronicle (via digital video camera) first a going-away party for someone named Rob and then the invasion of New York by something capable of decapitating the Statue of Liberty. When those people – and others – did go and search for the one clue that was readily available, the movie’s release date, they were taken to what for a long while was the movie’s official website, 1-08-08.com. There they saw a photo from Rob’s going-away party. This site would occasionally have photos added to it, sometimes of things that were obviously related to the movie like two women staring up at something horrific or people evacuating the scene of a disaster. Other times photos would be more cryptic and mysterious, like the one showing a chef holding up his creation. Each one was time-stamped, allowing the visitor to see when it was taken. This was especially helpful on the ones that were obviously movie-related since you could arrange them in such a way to build a chronology of the night’s events, moving from party to terror. It was later revealed that you could shake them with your computer mouse and have them flip over. A couple of them then had something written on the back. Specifically, the one of the chef had the recipe for whatever it is he’s holding, and the one with a couple of party-goers had a note from the girl in the picture, Jamie, wishing Rob well on his trip. (Note: Remember that name for later) Eventually a teaser poster appeared for the still-unnamed movie. While still not divulging the name, it did show the Statue of Liberty, now sans head, standing watch (now harder because of the lack of said head) over New York City. There’s also, if you look closely, a wake in the water between Liberty Island and the Manhattan shore. That was one of the first clues in this mainstream campaign that the monster that will invoke such havoc on the city springs from the depths of the sea. The mainstream campaign then largely died down somewhere around in the early fall. Pictures continued to be added to the 1-18-08 site, but that was about it. This seemed to be a direct result of the fact that the movie was still unnamed. After all, it’s hard to run a mass-awareness campaign for a movie whose name is still being held as a secret. That’s just one of the reasons that releasing an un-branded trailer was such a big risk. Not only do you miss out on the chance to tell the audience for that trailer what the name of the movie is, a name they can then plan with and add to their list of movies to see, but you kind of lose the ability to run an extensible campaign. While you can get away with such a move with a trailer you certainly can’t run un-branded TV spots. That’s not going to create mystery and intrigue; it’s going to create mass confusion and turn people away from that movie where the studio can’t even be bothered to tell us what it is they’re advertising. But the gamble of the unnamed trailer certainly did pay off for Abrams and Paramount here. That likely had as much to do with the fact that it came from Abrams, whose core audience is certainly used to trying to decipher his stuff from Alias and Lost as it did that the trailer dropped in front of Transformers. That audience is, in large part, going to be pre-disposed to sci-fi type movies that make a big splash in order to get their attention.
Teaser Poster #1
That latter audience is also of an age and a disposition to be online, where they can post their reactions to the trailer to their blogs, their social network profiles or in some other fashion spread the word online, even if it’s just through one-to-one communications like email or text message. But then around mid-December the official campaign started back up in earnest. The first salvo was a new trailer that, instead of seeming like it was pulled from the opening of the movie (which it kind of was) this one looked and felt more like a traditional trailer. The scenes presented were pulled from throughout the movie and presented a better look at the core group of characters that we’d be following in the movie. This new trailer also opened with a few shots of Rob’s going away party. But preceding that was a title card designating, in military-type speak, the footage as being part of “Case Designate: Cloverfield” that was recovered at the site “formerly known as Central Park.” More importantly, it finally gave the movie a name, the same one most of the online world had been using as shorthand most of the time: Cloverfield. Branding it as anything other than Cloverfield would have, in all likelihood, created an unnecessary speed bump in the word-of-mouth momentum the movie had built up. The release of this trailer followed the same rough pattern as that of the first. It debuted in theatres in front of screenings of Beowulf. That was followed by cell phone videos people had shot at those screenings, followed by the official release online the following Monday. Now, though, the game had changed. The movie now had an official, publicly known name. The mainstream audience that might be wary of viral techniques or movies they don’t even know the name of could now fully be appealed to. The release of the trailer online brought with it the launch of Cloverfieldmovie.com, the movie’s new official site. At first the site was incredibly sparse, just sporting the poster artwork as a background and the new trailer as content. More was added to the site later, including a very vague plot synopsis. The teaser trailer was also added, as well as links to the movie’s Facebook and MySpace brand pages. Also on the site was a widget people could grab. That widget contained a video clip of the first five minutes of Cloverfield complete with introduction by producer Abrams himself. The widget could be embedded anywhere – blog, social network profile, personalized home page and more – and also came with a contest attached to it. You could either just snag the widget or, if you wanted to try and win a screening of the movie for you and your friends or other swag you could register and grab a personalized (at least on a code level) version. The contest was structured so that the person who had the widget with their personalized identifier grabbed by others the most won the screening, with subsequent lower prizes for those coming in on down the food chain. Not only did it provide fans with a much lustedafter look at the opening sequence from the movie but it also incentivized the spreading of word-of-mouth, giving widget grabbers something tangible for their participation in spreading the reach of the clip. Around this same time the advertising for the movie began. The poster finally got branded. Ads showed up online to some extent, but especially on TV. At first the TV spots seemed to be limited to outlets like Sci-Fi Channel and such, but in the final weeks the reach expanded to just about everything.
Full Poster #1
Paramount even began using MSN’s new mobile ad format to reach users of smart phones and other advanced devices under the thinking that technophiles greatly overlap with the movie’s target audience. It followed the same sort of thought process as placing the teaser trailer in front of Transformers (discounting the fortunate corporate studio synergy available there). In all just over 15 TV spots seem to have been produced a mix of 30- and 15-second spots. Some showed a new shot here or there (including one that featured a new shot of the attacking monster, though of course it was obscured nicely) but mostly the footage was pulled from what we had already seen in one or both of the existing trailers. The spots sold the movie primarily as a monster movie and not as anything all that special. There were little hints and hat-tips to the trailers and such but for the most part the advertising campaign was selling a movie about a beast that attacks New York and the people who are scrambling for survival. That actually may well be an accurate description of the movie. But for those of us paying attention online the campaign had a second, more engaging level to it. 2. Campaign the Second (Or, Why Did Jamie Eat That When Teddy Told Her Not To?) This branch of the campaign happened parallel to the mainstream campaign, occasionally coming close to but never quite joining that other push. This one was designed to be more interactive, engaging and interesting to the online audience. The main conceit driving the online campaign has been that the events of the movie take place on January 18th, 2008, the film’s release date. We are following the character’s lives, though, through MySpace pages, online video and more in real time as they all careen toward that date. So when it’s 12/15, for instance, in our world, it’s 12/15 in the movie’s world as well. There are two main components to this online ARG (alternate reality game) that need to be explored. The first is Slusho. Slusho is a frozen drink concoction – kind of like a Slurpee – that apparently is so addictive and enjoyable that the marketing copy point for it is “You can’t drink just six!” Slusho started out as a throw-away reference on Abrams’ Alias TV show but now is playing a key role in the movie. In fact the Slusho product home page was one of the first sites found that was confirmed to be part of the Cloverfield campaign. The page features all sorts of cartoon characters and a bit of information on the drink and the company that makes it, Tagruato Corporation. You could even buy Slusho t-shirts and hats and download buddy icons and other stuff for your use. The animation and images on the site provided a rich vein for those seeking clues as to the movie’s plot. Some of these are probably intentional red herrings, but that hasn’t stopped people online from wondering just what role Slusho plays in the movie. About a month or so before the release date the fictional Tagruato ran a contest asking people to create their own commercials for Slusho, spots that needed, the rules said, to emphasize just what a non-stop happy experience Slusho was. The contest was very real and solicited a good number of entries, a statement to just how much people wanted to have some fun and – and this is the important part – how much they wanted to participate in the build-up to a movie they were obviously looking forward to.
Teaser Poster #2
Creating a campaign that’s so immersive and engaging that people will spend their day creating videos for a product they know is fake means the creators have obviously tapped into something truly special. Most real brands have a hard time doing that. These consumer creators are, hopefully, being embraced by Paramount for just how much effort they’ve put into helping the studio out. That kind of engagement aside, Slusho went from “plays into the movie somehow” to being directly related to the movie’s events in the weeks just prior to release. That’s when Rob announced, via his MySpace blog, that he had been hired by Slusho and would be heading to Japan shortly. With that announcement not only was Slusho brought directly into the lives of one of the movie’s characters but we now knew just why Rob’s friends needed to throw him a going-away party. Around that same time tragedy befell the fictional Tagruato Corp. But let’s back up for a minute. The company’s home page had been the subject of much scrutiny and speculation since it was found online. The site occasionally fell victim to “hacks” that put up mysterious messages from those obviously displeased with the company, including once when a page of a book was put there that seemed to hint at some danger Tagruato knew about but was wilfully ignoring. Visitors to the site could even sign up for email messages from Tagruato, most of which were all about how wonderful the company was and how well it was progressing in getting Slusho’s key ingredient – seabed’s nectar – approved for sale in the United States. There were also sonar images occasionally that showed something large and unidentified moving through the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on a westward course, seemingly heading toward the Eastern shore of the U.S. That path included a stop at a drilling station owned by Tagruato that lead to the tragedy alluded to earlier. Told via news reports from around the world, the Chuai Station owned by Tagruato is seen falling into the sea. Those news reports are made up of footage shot from helicopter as well as video that seems to be shot from inside the station as people evacuate and then try to escape to safety on a motorboat. As they speed away from the station, though, wreckage begins to be hurled up out of the sea by some mysterious force, with a large chunk of support beam eventually falling on the boat containing the survivors. Tagruato issued a statement saying while it couldn’t explain why huge debris came flying out of the water; the destruction of the station was almost certainly the work of an eco-terrorism group that had targeted the company. Accompanying this development were one and then two more pictures that were added to 1-18-08.com, the first time pictures on the site represented something that was happening in the real-time campaign. The first showed a shot seemingly torn from the news coverage of the station disaster of the ill-fated boat and its occupants. The second showed a shot of the station from farther back, with part of the picture pixilated out, like they were trying to hide something. Say, for instance, part of a huge monster. The final one was a night-vision shot of some sort of massive bombardment attack on the station. This was perhaps the only time the ARG campaign and the mainstream push intersected. While 1-18-08.com was certainly part of the overall online experience, it wasn’t part of
Teaser Poster #3
the unfolding real-time events. It existed outside of the progression of the rest of the movie’s characters, acting as a pictorial hub for those enthusiasts trying to sniff out every possible clue from the pictures released there. While that’s still true of this last batch of additions it’s worth noting that this is seemingly the one break in continuity that’s happened in the campaign. So if Slusho/Tagruato is the first component of the online alternate reality campaign what was the second? The answer was Jamie & Teddy. Jamie & Teddy was a site set up by, well, Jamie and Teddy. The two characters from the film’s universe are dating and apparently serious enough that registering a domain together was a logical step. The site plays host to video messages from Jamie (the girl, just to be clear) to Teddy, who has gone off to Japan as part of his job. She sits on her bed and flips open the webcam and records her thoughts to Teddy. In the first couple episodes that was about it. Jamie would tell Teddy how amazing he was, how she enjoyed their last night together or their last text conversation or something like that. But then at some point Teddy stopped communicating. At first Jamie appears concerned that he’s too busy or something but eventually concern turns to frustration. During this communications breakdown, Jamie receives a package from Teddy containing a wrapped box that, according to the note, she’s not to open until a date in December. It’s between the arrival of the package and the “Open on…” date that things start to go south, with Jamie in full “You slimeball you left me for some skanky whore” mode when opening the package. Its contents are a Slusho hat, a small packet of something wrapped in tinfoil and a message from Teddy telling her he’s been kidnapped by Tagruato and to make sure the package’s contents get into someone’s hands and, whatever she does, don’t eat what’s in the packet. Of course she later eats it. Whatever it is – most people online believed it was the mysterious “seabed’s nectar” that goes into Slusho– it had some odd effects on Jamie. Shortly after tasting it (which she does after making a call to Teddy’s place of employment in Japan, which seems to produce an ominous reaction) she bolts away from the camera saying suddenly that she’s going out. That’s followed by a message from an utterly drunk Jamie. That, then, is followed by her donning what can only be described as a purple ninja suit and doing an interpretive dance to describe the depths of her loathing for him. That, in turn, is followed by her dismembering a teddy bear (get it- Teddy = teddy) in a slow and deliberate manner. After Jamie ate the nectar or whatever was in the packet, the only acceptable conclusion for her character would have been for her to die. The character seemed to be getting dumber episode-to-episode, and the idea that this ingredient in its pure form is fatal would have added some real depth to the online aspect of the campaign. Alas we already knew that was not to be since she shows up in one of the pictures on 1-18-08 that were taken on at Rob’s party the night of the attack. Despite the de-evolution of Jamie, the series was pretty entertaining and interesting to watch, especially when the connection to the movie’s events became more and more clear.
Teaser Poster #4
That same thing can be said of the entire alternate-reality campaign. Watching the characters move in their own ways toward their fate – whatever the movie shows that to be – is intriguing. It helps us view them not just as characters on the screen but people who we’re invested in emotionally. That sort of investment seems to have been the primary goal of this branch of the campaign. So by setting up the campaign so that we got to know and even care about these characters the emotions we view the movie through have been changed. We’re not just rooting for the good guy because he’s the good guy, we’re hoping our friends Rob and Beth and the others make it to safety. Our emotional connections to the characters, and subsequently to the movie, have been deepened, probably resulting in a better experience as an audience. It’s the difference between watching a YouTube video of a roller coaster ride and taking the ride yourself. Conclusion It’s hard to call any campaign that inspires this much amount of fan scrutiny anything but a resounding success. It’s hard to call any campaign that inspires such a cottage industry of blogs devoted to just this movie anything other than a success. Obviously people were drawn in to the campaign by the mysterious, unnamed trailer and the unusual take on a disaster movie. The two-pronged campaign certainly was a great decision by Abrams and the studio. Even if things had kicked off as they did with that initial trailer, potential fans online would not have been as engaged and enthused if there had just been a poster, trailer and website just like every other movie out there, no matter how cool the movie looked. It would have been subject to the same level of “insider” reports and spy leaks as every other movie. But by, essentially, giving the online audience a regular supply of new rawhides to chew on Abrams and Paramount were able to earn their loyalty and turn them from casual or even devoted fans into surrogate marketing agents. The bloggers who write about movies in general or this movie in particular were the ones selling the movie, broadcasting the new material that was given to them all over the Internet. The mainstream campaign, too, was a cut above – it’s hard to match those trailers especially. While it can be bemoaned that Paramount had to advertise the movie in a traditional manner (remember, advertising is what you do when you don’t have a story to tell, and this one did) the fact of the matter is that they did have to. At least they did so pretty well. Especially considering the mainstream campaign was hampered to some extent by the online execution. The CloverfieldMovie.com site couldn’t exactly be loaded with information since that would spoil the alternate reality being set up elsewhere. So that site feels kind of barebones. That doesn’t detract from the campaign, though, since that was born of necessity and not laziness or lack of commitment. It’s the enthusiasm of the general audience that most qualifies the marketing as successful. Twitter was awash with people talking about the commercials, trailers or discussion of when people will be seeing the movie. Some mainstream writers loved the interactivity and engagement. Others say the campaign has been far too clever for its own good. Whatever the opinion might be, the campaign got people talking. The campaign got people caring. The campaign got people sharing of their own vocation. The campaign got people involved. That’s success.
Director: Christopher Nolan Starring Christian Bale Michael Caine Heath Ledger Gary Oldman Aaron Eckhart Maggie Gyllenhaal Morgan Freeman Opening Weekend: $158,411,483 ($36,283 per-screen-average) Gross Revenue: $1,001,921,825
The Dark Knight
Plot Synopsis (from Wikipedia)
In Gotham City, the Joker and his accomplices rob a Mafia-owned bank. Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon decide to include new district attorney Harvey Dent, who is dating Bruce Wayne's childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes, in their plan to eradicate the mob. Bruce later meets Dent and offers him a fundraiser after realizing his sincerity. Mob bosses Sal Maroni, Gambol, and the Chechen meet to discuss the new pressure on their crime operations. Lau, a Chinese mafia accountant, informs them that he has hidden their money and fled to Hong Kong in an attempt to pre-empt Gordon's plan to seize their funds and hide from Dent's jurisdiction. The Joker barges into the meeting, warning that Batman will come after Lau, and instead offers to kill Batman for half of the funds. They flatly refuse, and Gambol places a bounty on the Joker's head. Not long after, the Joker kills Gambol and takes control of his gang. In Hong Kong, Batman captures Lau and makes his escape with a skyhook and delivers him to the Gotham City police where Lau agrees to testify, allowing Dent and Gordon arrest the mob. In retaliation, the Joker issues an ultimatum to Gotham that people will die each day unless Batman reveals his identity, resulting in the deaths of Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and the judge presiding over the mob trials. Gordon foils Joker's assassination attempt on the mayor, apparently dying in the process. As a result, Bruce Wayne plans to reveal his identity as Batman, but Dent instead reveals himself as Batman to protect the truth and is taken into protective custody. Escorted across the city, Dent is pursued by the Joker while Batman rushes to his aid. Gordon, who faked his death to lure the Joker, arrests him with Batman's help and is promoted to Commissioner. However, Dent goes missing and the Joker reveals that both Dent and Rachel have been taken to separate buildings on opposite sides of town which will explode at the same time. Batman goes after Rachel, while Gordon and the police go to rescue Dent. At the same time, the Joker escapes custody with Lau using a smuggled bomb. As the Joker has switched around the hostages' locations, Batman finds Dent and rescues him, even as Dent begs him to save Rachel instead. The buildings explode; Rachel is killed, while half of Dent's face is burned in the explosion, leaving him disfigured. After killing Lau and the Chechen, the Joker threatens to destroy a hospital if Coleman Reese, an accountant at Wayne Enterprises who has deduced Batman's identity, is not dead within an hour. Bruce saves Reese, while the Joker visits Dent in the hospital and convinces him to take revenge against those who played a part in Rachel's death. The Joker blows up the hospital and leaves with a bus full of hostages, while Dent—now calling himself "Two-Face"— confronts and kills Maroni and one of the two corrupt cops who gave him and Rachel to the mob. That night, as civilians are evacuated from the city, the Joker has two ferries rigged with explosives, offering both civilian and prisoner passenger groups a chance to live if they destroy the other boat. Batman asks his confidant Lucius Fox to find the Joker using a signal
tracking device that will effectively spy on the entire city; Fox reluctantly agrees, but says he will resign from Wayne Enterprises immediately afterward. After discovering the Joker's location, Batman stops Gordon's SWAT teams from taking out the Joker, in order to protect the hostages and to capture the Joker himself. The ferry passengers ultimately refuse to kill one another, and Batman apprehends the Joker, who nevertheless says that he has won "the battle for Gotham's soul"; he reveals what he has done to Dent, stating that the citizens of Gotham will lose its newly found hope once Dent's rampage becomes public knowledge. At the remains of the building where Rachel died, Batman finds Two-Face holding Gordon and his family at gunpoint. Two-Face judges the fate of Batman, himself, and Gordon's son with three flips of his lucky coin. As the result of the first two flips, he shoots Batman in the abdomen and spares himself. As Two-Face flips the coin to determine the boy's fate, Batman (who is wearing body armour) tackles him over the side of the building, killing him. Batman convinces Gordon to hold him publicly responsible for the murders; moments later, the police swarm the building, and a manhunt for Batman ensues. Batman retreats on the Batpod, now a fugitive. Gordon later delivers the eulogy at Dent's funeral and smashes the Bat-Signal, while Fox watches the signal-tracking device self-destruct and Alfred Pennyworth destroys a letter written by Rachel revealing her plans to marry Dent.
Marketing The Dark Knight
The campaign for The Dark Knight, the second movie in the newest iteration of the Batman franchise, has a tough act to follow. The push for Batman Begins was amazingly consistent from one component to the next. From the posters to the trailers to the website, everything about the campaign was done in that same sepia-toned style, with Batman looming large and mysterious in the centre of the action. It created a singular public face which was reinforced time and again in the audience’s mind and created a strong brand identity in every sense of the phrase. The Dark Knight picks up just shortly after we left off in Batman Begins. But with Bruce Wayne feeling like his work as the Caped Crusader is coming to a close thanks to the work of Harvey Dent and a corruption fighting District Attorney who is committed to bringing order to Gotham City things seem to be calming down, or at least coming to a point where the actual system can begin working. Into that mix comes the mysterious Joker, a “better class of criminal” that is devoted to bringing down Batman – and Dent – in his efforts to…well…enjoy himself as chaos is set free in the streets again. And that leads us to the main issue surrounding this campaign. The early stages of the push by Warner Bros. had focused heavily, as we’ll see as we progress, on the Joker’s involvement. He was causing mischief online and his markings were seen on the first posters and other materials. The Joker was, to make it clear, being positioned as the main selling point for the movie. But then Heath Ledger, the actor portraying him, died, with reports surrounding his death speculating either on an accidental overdose of medication or a purposeful suicide. Gone was not only a son and father of a little girl, but also the person who was going to be at the forefront of the campaign. His death threw into question just about everything. Does Warner Bros. continue to use the Joker in the campaign? Do they continue on with plans to create Joker toys and other items? Or will this all just be too ghoulish? But now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the way The Dark Knight was – and in some cases wasn’t sold to the movie-going public. 1) Part I: Why So Serious? (Or, He Believes in Harvey Dent Two)
Not content with creating a handful of “viral” sites to promote the movie, Warner Bros. instead engaged on what might just be the most ambitious and far-reaching online alternate reality game ever. Compared to this effort, online campaigns for Cloverfield, Snakes on a Plane and The Blair Witch Project pale by comparison. They can’t even hold a candle to The Dark Knight. As we’ll see, the campaign weaves in and out of the mainstream campaign, working to make sure that fans are not only engaged and interested but active as well. It has achieved what few others have been able to – making the audience willing participants in seeking out marketing and then talking about it – and has been able to sustain that over the course of a year, with anticipation and buzz increasing as time goes on and not waning as it by all rights should have. Warner Bros. launched the official website for The Dark Knight in May of 2007 as little more than a placeholder, showing off the new movie’s branding but not much else. But shortly after launch it linked, via the Bat-symbol that dominated the site, to IBelieveInHarveyDent, the campaign website for the candidate for District Attorney. Adorning the site was the face of Aaron Eckhart, the actor portraying Dent, giving us our first good look at him, though that amounted to just a shot of him in a suit. And we’re off and running. A few days after the Dent campaign site was launched, comic shop owners began reporting – and in some cases complaining – about the appearance of Joker cards that were being strewn around their stores. These cards contained a cryptic message that “I believe in Harvey Dent too!,” a message that led to the discovery of IBelieveInHarveyDentToo, which featured the same picture of Dent as before, though this time vandalized with horrific clown make-up. After enough people registered for updates on the site the image of Dent was taken down and replaced with a picture of The Joker, the first official shot of the character as he appears in the movie that fans were given. This stayed on the site for just a few days, though, and was soon taken down, leaving visitors with the message that someone will “See you in December.”
I Believe in Harvey Dent
I Believe in Harvey Dent Too
So already we see the pattern that will be used throughout the ARG: Put up mysterious site, promise something in return for enough participation, deliver on promise and then shut things down with the message that there’s more to come. Across this online effort the reward is, more often than not, a piece of the movie’s traditional marketing campaign, be it a poster or a trailer or something like that. This puts the audience in a position of power – getting a look at a new trailer or whatever becomes dependent on their activity or at least their alertness. They *need* to participate or the goodies will go away. At least that’s the perception that’s created through such efforts.
Moving back to the story line, the next move by the Joker was to distribute $1 bills directing people to WhySoSerious.com – a site that would become the hub of the online campaign and which is taken directly, we’d later see, from the movie itself. The bills were distributed at the San Diego Comic-Con in July of 2007, pretty much ensuring the participation of the legions of geeks in attendance there. The site told recipients to be at a certain place at a certain time and then sent them on a scavenger hunt of sorts, with those participating getting Joker masks and, once the clues had all been assembled, the site debuted the teaser trailer. WhySoSerious was briefly taken down, with the URL forwarding to Rent-A-Clown, which listed the names of those that had participated in the San Diego game as employees. The ARG then entered a bit of a dark period between the end of July and the beginning of October, when WhySoSerious was re-launched, this time showing a pumpkin with a batshaped mouth, a direct homage to the Loeb/Lee Batman graphic novel, a book that prominently featured a pre-Two Face Harvey Dent. That focus on Two Face is important here since, over the course of October, half and only half the pumpkin would slowly rot, resulting in a disfigurement that immediately evoked the long-time Batman villain. The connection was only strengthened by the fact that, as was widely believed, something would happen on Halloween, when the candle would be burnt out completely and the rotting process complete. That’s exactly what happened, too. On November 1st the site changed yet again, this time containing a hidden message that, once deciphered, led to RorysDeathKiss. That site – whose name is notable since that’s the false name the movie was shot under while in Chicago – challenged people to gather in groups and take pictures of themselves in Joker-esque makeup in front of national monuments and other recognizable locations. Those who did so – a process that involved offering a mailing address – later got physical copies of The Gotham Times while the rest of us got the paper’s website. In the paper were various stories of crimes committed, news on the mysterious Batman and other items of interest to the Gotham citizenry. Not one to leave anything alone, though, the Joker created his own version called the TheHaHaHaTimes, featuring the same stories, though in this case versions that had been given a makeover by the lunatic. It’s at this point that what had been a fun little diversion explodes into a fully realized alternate universe. Sites called WeAreTheAnswer, GothamPolice, GothamNationalBank, RememberingRegina, GothamCab, GothamCityRail, GVAFoundation, AcmeSecuritySystems, SaintSwithunsChurch and GothamUSD all pop up as a result of the stories in the paper. GothamCab’s site eventually then led to BettysHouseofPies. WeAreTheAnswer, a site for community participation in fighting crime, eventually led to a new page on the GothamPolice site, and the BettysHouseofPies site led to GDPIAD, which featured an audio clip of two corrupt cops who had previously been mentioned in the Gotham Times being arrested. This side of the campaign would take a brief break, with the last thing offered being another audio clip, this time of one of a confession by one of the arrested officers.
Teaser Poster #1
All this while the Joker was leading people down a path from the Ha Ha Ha Times to Whysoserious.com/Personalityprofile, Whysoserious.com/mausoleum, Whysoserious.com/theperfectgetaway and eventually to Whysoserious.com/outoftime and then Whysoserious.com/Steprightup. It’s the last one that would have the most immediate pay-off since it contained instructions to pick up packages at 22 locations nationwide at a certain time on December 4th. Inside that package was a birthday cake with a cell phone baked into it. There was also a new page branching off of the Step Right Up section of WhySoSerious, a section that featured a countdown clock to December 4th, which revealed the first teaser poster for the movie. At that time in the mainstream campaign, the first five minutes for the movie were being shown in front of IMAX prints of I Am Legend. The release of the poster, and the end of this particular story arc in the campaign, came just a few days before Heath Ledger’s passing. Whether motivated by his death or part of the plan all along, the ARG then took a shift from pranks being committed by the joker and his band of ne’er-do-wells toward the campaign of crusading district attorney candidate Harvey Dent. The IBelieveinHarveyDent site, the first of these microsites to appear, received an upgrade to act as the hub of his campaign for office. Materials like downloadable posters and campaign signs were added there, with his “supporters” being encouraged to then take a picture of themselves with the signage and then submit it to the site. The campaign even came off the Internet in the form of the Dentmobile, a van that went around the country to various locations where the campaign had organized rallies. In some cases the rallies were met with less than enthusiasm by the actual police of some cities. Materials like Gotham City voter registration cards and other campaign materials were handed out and mailed to some of those who had registered on various sites so far, a new issue of the Gotham Times among the swag mailed. Of course the Joker responded with an updated version of the HaHaHaTimes, showing a consistency from the previous effort as well as signalling clearly that despite Ledger’s death, the character was living on in the campaign. The battle for the District Attorney slot game heated as sites like one for Dana Worthington, another contender in the race, and one for incumbent DA Roger Garcetti popping up. At the same time supporters of justice in Gotham launched sites for the Maiden Avenue Report and the action group Citizens for Batman. Gotham Cable News also came on the online scene, profiling the candidates and providing more depth to our understanding of the political battles in the city. Concerned Citizens for a Better Gotham, a front group for those solely interested in maintaining the corrupt status quo, sent out half-burned Dent campaign buttons at the end of March, just before players in the Joker-centric part of the game would get a message that, after visiting a page on Acme Security Systems’ site, would turn out to be from Lt. James Gordon informing them he knew who they were and they worked for him now. This came after those who had previously received Joker cell phones were told to go to various locations via the Clown Travel Agency, where they now received Joker-coloured bowling balls and a new phone. It was on that phone that Gordon contacted them. That coincided with the launch of the site for the Gotham Police Major Crimes Unit, a division headed by Gordon and committed to rooting out corrupt officials and tackling other, well, major crimes. More police officers would then be implicated in dirty dealings,
with many of these cops and other officials trying to turn the debate against Dent and portray him as the crooked one, an assertion vehemently denied by ADA Rachel Dawes in a press conference that was distributed on the Maiden Avenue Report’s site. Dent himself was then scheduled for a press conference but that had to be bumped when two of the cops accused of corruption tried to prove their innocence by taking hostages, a situation that Dent himself was able to negotiate an end to. The investigation being run by Jim Gordon continued through text messages and more incriminating documents being added to various sites, culminating in Operation Slipknot, an effort to keep corrupt officials and cops from leaving the city. This involved having participants call the Intercontinental Hotel and having packages re-routed to them instead of their intended recipients. This led to the fall of Concerned Citizens for a Better Gotham, the sham advocacy group. The Joker came back on the scene again by updating the It’s All Part of the Plan portion of WhySoSerious with information on coordinating local meetings at certain places. Upon meeting, the players were tasked first with finding numeric clues and then entering them on the site. That led to a carnival-esque duck shooting game at Sitting Ducks and then, after a countdown of a day or less, to a new Happy Trails page that contained the new theatrical trailer for the movie. Harvey Dent’s campaign continued on through all of this, with his election soon being announced on the newly launched Gotham Cable News site, featuring the news program “Gotham Tonight.” The Gotham Times also made Dent’s win news and pointed to Gotham City Pizzeria’s site, a site that gave away a handful of free pizzas around the country. That pizza place’s site would later be hit by the Joker and point to WhySoSerious.com/MyHero, where people got their first glimpse of footage of TwoFace, footage that was shortly taken down. The Joker then sent phone-owners a puzzle that leads to LaughTillItHurts page on WhySoSerious, a page that would eventually feature security camera footage of a Gotham bank. Gordon’s Operation Slipknot would continue on, as would the Joker’s campaign of chaos, with the addition of a RedBalloons page, featuring another carnival midway-type game, to WhySoSerious. Gotham Cable News also continued adding Batman sightings and other news to its site. The Joker would take credit in a message sent to supporters that he was responsible for killing a mobster, a murder Gordon was investigating. Eventually two more games were added to WhySoSerious, Operator (which involved all the cell phone owners) and PunkDrop. When the latter was completed a new poster was revealed. Messages left on a variety of sites coupled with software keys that were decoded by participants led to the discovery of events being organized July 8th in Chicago and New York, an event that turned out to be the displaying of the Bat-symbol on the Sears Tower and Woolworth Building, respectively, events that were live-streamed on the web for those not able to make it. WhySoSerious updated one more time with a new Overture page that counted down to 10PM on July 10th. At that time an email was sent to the Joker’s army that lead to a list of times and locations for free IMAX screenings of the movie, events that quickly sold out.
Teaser Poster #2 Just days before the movie, those with Joker phones got a call from a person supposedly being held hostage within Gotham National Bank, a call that ended with what appeared to be the Joker’s laugh before ending abruptly. Just a couple of days before the end of the campaign all of ARG’s sites were defaced by the Joker, with the odd eyes and faces being pasted over all the pictures and his signature
“hahahahaha” scrawled all over the screen, marking what appears to be his last laugh at the people of Gotham. 2) Part II: The Dark Knight Returns (Or, We’re Hoping This Title Gets Everyone Thinking About Frank Miller’s Work) As we’ve seen, a good portion of the ARG campaign has included aspects of the mainstream, traditional marketing push, with posters and trailers being included as the rewards for playing along, sometimes over the course of months. But since that’s not universally true and since these traditional elements deserve their own analysis, let’s look at how they work in and of themselves. This separation is important since the two components are appealing to, if not drastically, at least partially different audiences. Online Warner Bros. has been able to activate a serious core of fans and Batman/comic enthusiasts who have revelled in being part of Joker’s army or in finding out what they need to do as part of the Gotham PD’s task force. But offline there is the larger movie-going audience that needs to be appealed to. So the elements that are crossing media need to not just be geared for audience that has “found” them through unlocking clues, but which sees them as part of the larger media landscape they live in. The difference is huge. Through the ARG, the participants have sought out the advertising and embraced it, revelling in a new poster or trailer because they were excited about it. But offline advertising is generally something folks try to avoid, either passively by just ignoring billboards or print ads or actively by fast-forwarding their DVRs or using pop-up blockers as they surf the Internet. The Posters The first teaser poster (featured earlier) that was revealed began the process of setting up the Joker as a source of instability in the world, specifically Batman’s world. It shows a simple brick wall like what you’d find in an alley. But on this wall is graffiti in the form of a clown’s face, with the mouth taking on the shape of a bat. This not only hints at the mayhem to come but also begins on the print side the focal point of the movie’s branding, which combines the continued usage of the very sleek and clean Bat-symbol with the insane scrawled artwork of the Joker. It also brought the Why So Serious? line into the campaign fully. The next two emphasized the slick more than the chaos. One featured Batman, shot from behind, staring out his penthouse window, a location we had briefly seen in the first full trailer that had debuted prior to this. The other shot the Joker from behind too, only he’s standing in the middle of a city street, a shot also similar to that found in the recent full trailer. Both were very shiny and emphasized the sort of blue-ish light that is found throughout the movie’s campaign, a colour theme that replaces the rusty brown of the Batman Begins marketing. Why So Serious? would be revisited with a solo Joker poster that featured him writing that phrase – seemingly in blood – on the other side of a window. It’s certainly the most disturbing one-sheet of the campaign to date and possibly the most disturbing one of the campaign in total. That’s because its main goal is to set this version of the Joker apart from others. He’s not a prankster. He’s not just a slightly kooky grandfather. He’s a murderer with blood literally on his hands who thinks that what he’s doing is really really funny. This Joker is taking lives and he’s having a blast doing it. It’s that rawness that makes this poster so legitimately chilling to see. Next up is a series of three posters, one for Batman one for the Joker and one for Harvey Dent, marking his first appearance in the print campaign, something that happened right
around the time the “Harvey Dent for DA” campaign was heating up online. Each one holds up an object he’s associated with. So Joker holds up a joker playing card, Batman a throwing knife and Dent a campaign button. Each has half his face obscured by the darkness they’re in, something that means something different for each character, or at least it can mean something different for each one. For the Joker it’s as if he’s coming out of the darkness. For Batman it’s his struggles with duality and for Dent it’s a bit of foreshadowing of his eventual transformation. All three were not only released individually but also as part of a single image, which works just a little bit better than the three do separately. The next three posters that appeared were also part of a themed set, though not quite in the same way as those above. One showed Batman flying through the sky on his Batpod, one had the Joker in much the same pose as on the above teaser, though this time shot from the front, and the third was a theatrical poster. The theatrical poster especially is great since it does the best job of conveying the movie’s branding. The overall colour palette used is the same as we’ve seen on some of the other posters and in the trailers – slick blue-ish grey – and also includes the Bat symbol being defaced, this time as it forms a ball of fire coming out of the building Batman is standing in front of. One additional poster cropped up toward the end of the online ARG. This one featured Batman, but portrayed his face as being sort of made up of playing cards, most of which were joker cards. Scrawled on his face was not only the now-familiar red smile over his very serious scowl but also various lines of the Joker’s, including “It’s all part of the plan,” Let’s put a smile on that face” and others, all meant to emphasize how messing with the Batman’s mind is Task #1 on the Joker’s plans for de-stabilizing Gotham.
Teaser Poster #3
Teaser Poster #4
Character Poster #1
Character Poster #2
Character Poster #3
Character Poster #4
Theatrical Poster #1
The Trailers The first teaser trailer Warner Bros. released was very much a teaser in every sense of the word. Featuring absolutely no footage from the movie, it simply set some dialogue from, respectively, the Joker, Bruce Wayne and the Alfred. Most of the dialogue focused on how things had changed, how the emergence of the Joker has once again disrupted the balance of power in Gotham City and how the villain just can’t seem to be reasoned with. While the dialogue might not have sat comfortably in the trailer, what it does very well is establish the visual branding of the movie, as the blue-ish light in back of the familiar Bat-symbol builds in intensity until it actually begins to chip away at the symbol. That works to not only introduce the dominant colour of the campaign to the audience but also hint at the movie’s plot, which will see Batman having his core self being broken apart. The first theatrical trailer was, quite frankly, all about introducing The Joker to the audience. He’s the one providing the narration at the beginning, he’s the one addressing the assembled room of thugs and toughs and he’s the one threatening people left and right. All the characters are reacting, either emotionally or physically, to the actions of the Joker, showing him to be such a force of nature that he changes not only the larger equation but all the little ones as well. It’s enormously effective and does a fantastic job of introducing the audience to what would soon become so many classic lines that would show up throughout the rest of the campaign. If the first theatrical trailer was primarily interested in introducing the Joker, the second theatrical trailer worked to introduce everyone else. Harvey Dent, Alfred, James Gordon and Lucius Fox all get some screen time here as the trailer tries to set the stage for the epic story the movie will be trying to convey. It maybe works a little less well than the previous one simply because the focus isn’t quite as tight. But it’s not by any means a bad trailer, just one that is trying to accomplish different things. It still clips along very well and keeps the tension high for the audience. In late May USA Today announced the results of its first ever Golden Trailer Awards polling, with the spot for The Dark Knight taking the top spot by a margin of 44 percent, signalling this was a highly anticipated movie among members of a decidedly mainstream audience. All three trailers, especially the latter two, display an amazing amount of brand consistency, with a bit of similar footage but more importantly a single look and feel. It’s the same sort of consistency that we saw in the posters and which contributes to one more aspect of a great branding campaign. Online You know what the biggest problem with the movie’s official website is? Since so much of this campaign has been online and has been so interactive, the relatively standard site here kind of pales in comparison. A brief overview of the site: Synopsis: A decent recap of the movie, though like so many of such sections it eventually turns into a credit block and not an actual description of the movie’s story. About the Film: Bios and backgrounds on the Cast and Filmmakers. You can also Download Production Notes, which make up in large part for the underwhelming Synopsis. Video: All three trailers are all you’ll find here. Disappointing that the TV spots or any of the other video assets aren’t here. On the upside, though, you can embed any
of the trailers on your own site or choose from a variety of other formats to watch the trailers in. Photo Gallery: Just 14 stills, almost all of which were seen elsewhere previously. Downloads: Screensavers, Posters, Wallpapers and Buddy Icons are what you’ll find here. All the posters are here, something that’s usually overlooked on sites, and are in reverse chronological order. Friends of Gotham: This is where you’ll find links to the movie’s promotional partners as well as to other sites that have run promotions or contests relating to the movie. The Dark Knight on Comcast: A stand-alone link to Comcast’s mini-site. They must have paid a whole lot of cash to get their own link off the main page in addition to being linked in the Friends of Gotham section. Tickets & Showtimes: Pretty self-explanatory. Music: Links to a stand-alone site for the movie’s soundtrack, which features a few music clips and some news headlines relating to the score and its composers.
There’s not all that much on the movie’s MySpace page, just one of the trailers, a handful of photos and a sweepstakes you can enter. Again, not that these sites were “bad,” but the online campaign that was part of the ARG was just *so good* that these relatively standard efforts just feel uninspired. Eventually, about three weeks before the movie’s release date, Warner Bros. released the first five minutes of the movie – the same clip that was shown in-front of IMAX showings of I Am Legend – online. Advertising and Cross-Promotions Part of the online advertising effort had Warner Bros. taking over the front-page of social network MySpace on the day that site received a much-hyped makeover of its design and functionality. The flaming Bat-symbol from the theatrical poster was featured at the top of the page as the trailer played next to it. The buy was a coup for Warner since this was a day when a lot of people – not just MySpace’s regular user base but also a lot of online geeks who wanted to see if the Most Hated User Experience on the Internet had improved any. That sort of anticipation and sure-fire media coverage was bound to include tons of screen-grabs of the new design, screen-grabs that would likely include the Dark Knight ad at the top. That’s of course exactly what happened, extending the reach of the ad buy exponentially as everyone shared those grabs on Flickr and elsewhere. One of the biggest partners signing on for this second entry in the Batman 2.0 franchise is Hershey. The chocolate company redesigned its Peanut Butter Cups and other products to resemble or feature the Bat-symbol and created branded packaging with Batman on the product. “Special Editions” of the peanut butter bars came with the Joker’s face scrawled on the top of the candy in the same manner as he’s defaced posters and other materials, which I think is very cool. The packaging also featured an instant-win game offering an array of prizes, from a Batman-themed MV Agusta F4 motorcycle to Joker masks to home theatre systems and more. The microsite from Hershey also featured photos from the movie and all three trailers, as well as a call to submit videos that featured some destruction of the Bat-shaped products by the Joker, with a Reese’s prize pack going to the best one. Nokia and Verizon Wireless partnered on a limited Dark Knight Edition Nokia 6205 phone that featured the Bat emblem on the outside of the phone and exclusive content like wallpapers, voice tones, screensavers and the movie’s trailer already loaded on the
device. The phone also came packaged with an exclusive Joker playing card and pointed people to FightForGothamCity.com where they could see if they instantly won $10,000 with that card and also download more Dark Knight content to their phones via Verizon’s V Cast. The three-way partnership also featured a co-branded widget that could be added to sites and social networks. When viewing the “Movie Counter” tab on the widget it counted down to the film’s release and the “Phone Counter” release counted down to that of the phone. There was also a site where you could upload a picture of yourself or a friend and place them in Arkham Asylum. Comcast was a big partner, acting as the creator – or at least distributor – of the Gotham Cable News station and its “Gotham Tonight” news show. The episodes, which chronicled the campaign of Harvey Dent, sightings of Batman and other local interest items, were available not only online but were actually broadcast to Comcast subscribers, with short versions showing up on TV and full versions available on-demand. The cable company’s site, the real one not the ARG one, featured a bunch of movie material, enough to give the official site a run for its money. There were all three trailers and a handful of TV spots in “Video” along with exclusive featurettes on the IMAX production, the making of the Joker’s henchmen masks and more facets of the making of the movie. “Downloads” had IM icons, Wallpaper and a Screensaver. Finally there was a Synopsis and a handful of Photos under “Images.” There was also a co-branded commercial that was created that took place in Gotham City. Along with Comcast, Domino’s Pizza was one of the promotional partners that crossed over from the mainstream campaign to the ARG effort as well. As we’ve seen, they were the presenters of Gotham City Pizzeria. For the real-world citizens, the chain introduced a new pizza that was delivered in one or four specially-designed boxes, each of which features a different component of Batman’s costume. The section of the Domino’s site devoted to the movie featured trailers and other movie footage as well as downloads like wallpapers and a “The Cards Tell the Tale” interactive game. Finally, Domino’s announced it will deliver $10,000 daily via Gotham City armoured truck to a lucky customer. Domino’s even debuted a new full-length trailer on the site that is, well, awesome. It contains a lot of footage we’ve already seen, but also some new stuff, particularly in the form of reactions to lines we’ve seen throughout the campaign. It strikes a very dark tone and has a lot of violence and plays into the idea that the Joker is just screwing with people A LOT in this movie. Batman became the latest fictional celebrity to be featured in the “Got Milk?” campaign, appearing with the famous milk moustache in a series of print ads. Batman’s portion of the site was nicely tricked out though, and not just a toss-off effort. The site contained a trailer, a widget promoting a contest to have your likeness inserted into an upcoming comic and a downloadable Fan Kit. That Fan Kit contained a good number of stills from the movie, some of the posters and images of the character from the “Got Milk” ad. I love this kind of thing since it makes the collection and distribution of official images so much easier. Kmart got in on the action in a big way, partnering with Warner Bros. to become the “Official Batman Headquarters.” That includes the creation of in-store boutiques devoted to Dark Knight merchandise. It also offered $5 off coupons for select toys with the purchase of five boxes of cereal or other specific items from promotional partner General
Mills, who slapped Batman’s visage on a bunch of their boxes. A free movie ticket was also available to those who bought three bags of Reese’s Batman-themed products. Warner Bros. helped its own cause by creating a new version of the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags theme parks across the country. The rides, which have been around since about 1992, were redone with new Dark Knight-specific decorations, turning those waiting in line into citizens of Gotham City, moving around a city street while hearing campaign messages for Harvey Dent over the PA system. The movie also got a boost in the form of Batman: Gotham Knight, a direct-to-DVD anthology of short animated stories that, based on reports, takes place in the same universe as the new movies, kind of in-between the two films. This movie even had its own MySpace and Facebook pages, showing just how much an effort WB was putting into this movie. There was also a widget that you could add to either your blog or social network profile that made the Bat-signal stronger for everyone that added the widget and played the trailer. In addition to all these cross-promotional efforts, the movie has also received an extraordinary advertising campaign. Something around 15 TV spots have been created, each one taking a slightly different tone than the others, with some focusing on Batman, some on the Joker and many featuring the tiniest slivers of new footage. There’s also been heavy online and out-of-home advertising that’s been done. Toyota worked with Warner Bros. to bring the Batmobile – aka the Tumbler – to the Silverstone Formula One race a couple of weeks ago. All the Toyota cars also got Dark Knight makeovers and some of the teams sported Batsuit-esque overalls. Media The Dark Knight was sure to be a heavily covered release under any circumstances since it was going to be such a huge release and was so anticipated. But Ledger’s death became the hook on which many of these stories wound up being hung, dominating the stories and skewing everything. The other major focus of the media coverage in the last couple weeks before the movie hit theatres was the inevitable “Can the movie live up to the hype? ” stories that, again, allowed writers to do a little naval-gazing as they attempted to look prescient should the movie disappoint at the box-office. Aside from those two angles, the talent involved in the movie got the majority of the focus as the press attempted to get something good from Aaron Eckhart or Christopher Nolan or Christian Bale. Sometimes a new detail would leak out, resulting in a firestorm of blog coverage that invariably led to assumptions that were unfounded and untrue, but who the hell cares about that? The History Channel used the movie’s release as an opportunity to gain some viewership, running a special on the history of Batman that explored the psychology of the character with an emphasis on his vigilante tendencies. HBO ran one of their “First Look” specials on the movie’s making. It’s typically fluffy in nature but has some good stuff as well. And the movie got some more publicity when Warner Bros. announced it would put a number of highly-anticipated trailers in front of it. It also earned some street-cred by sponsoring a web-show that was popular with the online geek crowd, attaching the movie’s trailer to the videos.
One of the biggest components of the media campaign was the movie’s IMAX release, which did a lot of good to boost IMAX awareness and interest in general. There was a lot of coverage of how Nolan shot so much of the movie in IMAX format, leading to a situation where many of the IMAX screenings of opening weekend were sold out. Overall As stated at the outset, this is a campaign that’s literally unlike anything that’s come before. It blows away Iron Man, Cloverfield, Transformers and just about everything else not because it’s bigger than everything else but because it’s so much more interactive and engaging than anything else. There’s never been a marketing push that so clearly called for the audience to participate in the marketing and get the audience so excited about being marketed to. Oh sure, everyone was talking about Jamie & Teddy videos as part of the Cloverfield campaign, but there was nothing that the audience could do once the videos were found aside from speculate on what some photo frame in the background meant for the movie’s plot. This effort from Warner Bros., though, had people looking into source code on sites to find clues and hidden messages. That’s a level of engagement that’s above and beyond what we’ve seen before and something that takes this marketing to a whole new level. More than that, the ARG is impressive from the point of view of creativity. This whole story arc had to have been mapped out and designed well in advance, meaning someone – or a group of someones – sat in a room and thought about what sort of havoc the Joker could reap as all the characters spread toward the movie’s story. And that’s exactly what all this is: lead in to the movie. The last part of the story line had hostages being taken in the Gotham Bank and that’s right where the movie begins, with the Joker and his men staging that robbery. But even moving beyond the completely immersive ARG that went on, the mainstream campaign was pretty impressive. Everything works very well, both on their own and with each other. It maybe doesn’t hit the same heights of unified branding as the campaign for Batman Begins, but the The Dark Knight marketing is much more spread out, so some loss is unfortunately to be expected. Warner Bros., to their credit, addressed the death of one of the movie’s stars, whose character is a focal point of the story, in the best way it possibly could: By not addressing it. Instead of making a big deal of it either by overplaying it or removing him from the campaign they just kept on target, and the campaign is the stronger for it.
Limitations of the research
The research has only representative film from each genre and hence doesn’t wholly represent the movie industry, rather just a part of it.
The hypothetical ad campaign at the end of the research is based entirely on speculation. Even though an attempt was made to understand the target demographic (mostly by studying other existing genre campaigns), the hypothetical campaign was not market tested.
The research assumes that the behaviour of the target demographic remains constant across regions, countries and continents. Cultural differences have not been accounted for.
The research is based on self study and other researches, reviews and case studies and not the public perception. However, an attempt was made to cite researches and studies which measured public perception.
Findings and Analysis: My Conclusions
After studying the aforementioned case studies, and other literature (attached in the Appendix), I was able to glean the following about movie advertising: 1. Campaigns should be cohesive. As displayed particularly by the Kick Ass and The Dark Knight campaigns, there should be unifying themes and or visual baits throughout the campaign. 2. Make it an immersive experience for the audience. The audience loves to feel a part of the action. Which is probably why the ARG models adopted by Cloverfield and The Dark Knight generated so much buzz. Not only helping spread the word, an immersive experience also means that the audience is emotionally invested in the characters. 3. Know your audience, and cater to their needs. Something which the Kick Ass campaign failed to do was to respect the general mainstream movie audience. In its quest to project Kick Ass as a quirky and different superhero movie, the campaign forgot all about the mainstream (non-geeky) audience which doesn’t troll the net for movie tid-bits. End result? A weaker than expected opening weekend haul. 4. The internet is a powerful ally. Inexpensive and almost limitless in its reach, the internet can be used to not only augment ongoing campaigns, but to also kick start new ones. However, care must again be taken about reaching out to all the influential target groups. 5. The budget for a campaign has little to no bearing on the impact it has. While the campaigns for The Dark Knight and Cloverfield differed wildly in terms of budgets, what they did for their respective movies was comparable. 6. Campaigns are generally divided into waves/parts, with each wave having its own objective and goal. Keeping all these in mind, I will now attempt to draw up a 360o ad campaign for a hypothetical indie superhero film, David & Goliath. About the film Taking place in contemporary times in an unnamed corrupt town, David & Goliath chronicles the life of an eccentric and egoistical stage actor named David Schneider. An illegitimate child, he’d seen his mother gunned down by the mafia when he was very young. Alone and angry, David turned to theatre and soon became a much lauded actor, writer and director. Years later, the woman he loved, someone he only refers to as the Woman With Auburn Curls, was also gunned down by the same mafia lords right in front of him. The striking thing that David noticed was that both, his mother and the Woman With Auburn Curls, was smiling in death. This convinced David that there was something beautiful and pure about death and that he would actually be helping people if he killed them and relieved them from their sorry lives. Around this time, his eccentric behaviour also peeks with him refusing to perform at night or travel out of the town. Also, he slowly turns into a serial killer, killing anyone who doesn’t like his play. Now a washed-up has been, David hits upon a great new play to re-launch himself with. He starts performing the story of his tumultuous life. A lot of people are appalled by the numerous Jesus analogies David makes. Infuriated, David slowly but surely starts killing all of them. This catches the eye of the police, who enlist the help of a masked vigilante, dubbed Goliath, to hunt down the serial killer. As Goliath goes about investigating, it becomes apparent to him that David is in fact the killer. But, lacking any evidence, Goliath can’t do much. This sudden, unexpected rise of and influence exerted by Goliath rattles the cage of the mob bosses who put a price on his head.
Meanwhile, realizing that murder is easy, and still harbouring some resentment about the murders of his mother and love, David vows to avenge them. He also starts getting increasingly paranoid about Goliath, and actively seeks to kill him too. But, owing to his self imposed rule that he will not leave home at night, and that Goliath only appears at night, he is unable to do so. One day, in a scuffle with mob goons, Goliath in seriously injured. Hobbling, he reaches home and passes out. Next morning, David wakes up to find his whole body is aching, and that he is in Goliath’s costume. That is when we realize that David and Goliath are the same person. From then, the film becomes a cat-and-mouse chase between David/Goliath, the police, and the mob. In the end, David/Goliath manages to pin the blame for the slew of murders on the corrupt Police Chief, taking down the mob in the process. David finally retires to an unnamed tropical country, away from the demons of his past. Advertising David & Goliath With a limited budget, advertising the movie would have to rely on unconventional means. What is to be communicated? That the movie is a realistic superhero movie with a difference. It’s a character study as much as a superhero movie. What is the tone of the movie? Epic, realistic. The Big Idea: Pitch it as mainly David Schneider’s story, underplaying the fantastical superhero bits. At the same time, suck the audience into the world of the unnamed town, and recreate some of the chaos and fear for them. The Plan: 1. Setting up a site for David Schneider at www.davidschneider.com. Keeping in tune with the man’s personality, it will be flashy and self important. It will be just like the websites of actual movie stars, introducing themselves to the readers, having photos and the works. The site will eventually go on to sell tickets for the play within the movie called The God Story. People buying these tickets would have the option to trade them in for opening weekend tickets of David & Goliath. 2. At the same time as the launch of the site, radio spots will also start airing. These short spots would be like celebrity endorsements for The God Story. Script: “Hi! I am David Schneider, and I am in your town performing my newest play, The God Story. For tickets, log on to www.thegodstory.com. Hope to see you there.” thegodstory.com would redirect to the tickets page of davidschneider.com. 3. In a tie-up with bookmyshow.com, tickets for The God Story would also be available through the site. 4. Posters will come up virally across town, asking people “Who is David Schneider?”. The aim will be to run two conflicting campaigns (the radio campaign urging people to trust Schneider, and the poster campaign asking people to reconsider their stance) to get people curious about David Schneider and get them to visit davidschneider.com.
Teaser Poster #1
5. Around the same time, a viral youtube video would go live on social networking sites. Script: Video Audio Duration/Transition David Schneider struggling with Ambient sounds. an unnamed man. 10 seconds The video is as though shot sneakily using a cell phone Recorder (scared): Oh shit, oh camera. The recorder is shit! I can’t believe Schneider’s seemingly hiding from David. doing this! If you see this, After a tussle, David shoots the please bring this man to justice. unnamed guy. He then turns (shot fired) towards the recorder, and onemanmayface.com. shoots him too. (another shot fired) Fade to black. Title on black: 3 seconds. onemanmanyfaces.com Title on black: 2 seconds. July 8, 2011 6. A contest will run on onemanmanyfaces.com. Users will be urged to come forth with any incriminating evidence they might have of David Schneider doing any wrong deeds. They will be urged to go wacky. 7. Another poster will debut virally. This will re-enforce the one-man-many-faces concept.
Teaser Poster #2 8. Another poster campaign will start, seemingly from the Police Department, advertising a Neighbourhood Watch Week. 9. At around the same time, a new link would pop up on onemanmanyfaces.com. It’ll be to settingitright.blogspot.com. It’ll be a rather political blog, full of criticism of the police, and suggested steps to root out corruption from the city. The profile of the primary author will tell us that it’s the same guy who was shot first in the first viral video. A small obituary would also pop up.
10. Another contributor on the blog would post a fresh viral video. It will simply show Goliath intercept some common thugs, saving a woman from being raped. Goliath would be proclaimed as the saviour of the town in the post.
Teaser Poster #3
11. People who had submitted evidence onemanmanyfaces.com would be sent a link to the new trailer. The trailer would highlight the epic, operatic scale of the movie while keeping the focus firmly on David Schneider. Script: Video Audio Duration/Transition B/W studio logo slow zoom in. 5 seconds. Fade to black. 15 seconds.
Slow title zoom in on black: “Who is David Schneider?” Jump cuts of POV shot of somebody waking up, looking at his gloved hands, turning them around as if he can’t believe that his hands are in gloves. Walks up to a dresser with a mirror. We’re about to focus on what he sees in the mirror when we cut abruptly. Brief fade in/fade out clips from The God Story showing: a) A Nativity Scene b) A man and a woman arguing c) A naked child being tortured by policemen d) A woman with auburn curls reassuring a grieving man e) Some goons raping the woman with auburn curls Brief, energetic clips from the movie showing: a) A woman being gunned down in an alley. b) David slitting a throat. c) A sedan revving. d) Cop cars following sedan through crowded street. e) Goliath beating up a thug in a dark alley. f) Goliath jumping off a ledge. g) A mass uprising of some kind. h) Anxious mob bosses. i) David shaking hands with a mob boss. Opening 20 seconds from Carl Orff’s O Fortuna.
Smash Cut to Black. Fade In.
O Fortuna (00:20 to 00:35)
Fade Out. Smash Cut.
O Fortuna (01:40 to 02:20)
j) A dramatic scene from The God Story. k) Goliath fighting mob bosses. Clips of: a) David smiling. b) Goliath looking over the town. c) The police clapping handcuffs on to a man. d) David Schneider takes a dramatic bow on a stage. On black: David &Goliath.
O Fortuna (2:20 to 2:35) David: “I am David Schneider, and this is my story.”
Fade to black. O Fortuna (2:35 to 2:39) 5 seconds. Fade to Black.
Credits and release date. 5 seconds. This trailer would also be attached to other movies and shown in cinema halls. 12. To round off the campaign, a theatrical poster would also be released. It would feature the same image from teaser #2, but now with the David & Goliath branding, and the legend “This is David Schneider, and this is his story”.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
To summarise my research project looked to study how to make ad campaigns for movies, and then build a campaign for a hypothetical movie based on my observations. The idea was to understand and appreciate the precise art of selling something as perishable as a movie. My observations taught me much and helped to re-affirm what I had long believed—budget of an ad campaign has little to no bearing of how much buzz the film creates. Though it has its limitations like many researches it in my view is sufficient to prove the objective. A recommendation to other researchers tackling a similar topic is that they should look to merge their findings with current events and topics.
Marketing Movies Online (by Gunjan Bagla)
Movie marketing may one day embrace integration in all its glory … but only because it must in order to survive. In most industries, brands are built over years, sometimes decades. The theatrical release of movies is unique, because its current formula for success relies on building a brand in a few weeks. While press and buzz are important, heavy advertising is a requirement to drive awareness, favorability and to finally get “butts in seats” as Hollywood likes to put it. Box office revenue on the first weekend is used as a predictor of the lifetime value of each movie title, including future revenue from pay-per-view, DVD releases, international rights, etc. Careers are made and unmade in Monday morning meetings at many studios, and there is seldom a second chance if your advertising did not resonate prior to that crucial opening weekend. As movie-marketing budgets have increased along with the sheer diversity of titles competing for the viewer’s attention on any given weekend, it is not unusual to see budgets for tentpole releases in the $40-50 million range. Just a few years ago, $15 million was considered an enormous sum, according to Dan Rosen, formerly head of Research at Warner Brothers, and now speaking as a private citizen. “There may be 40 titles competing for a moviegoer’s attention on a typical summer weekend, if you count new releases, holdovers and home entertainment titles.” Let’s take a look at the role of the Internet in movie marketing according to Dynamic Logic data that compares the responses of people who saw the online advertising (“exposed”) and with a similar group who was not shown the online media (“control”). On average, exposed numbers tend to be higher than control numbers across all five core branding metrics (Figure 1). The five deltas (differences between control and exposed ads) are consistently higher than averages across all industries, and this indicates that movie marketers do a great job with the online medium relative to other industries (Figure 2).
MarketNorms Movies data through Q2, 2004 based on 39 movie campaigns with 41,301 respondents. Overall data based on 1,378 campaigns and 1,552,168 respondents. Rosen agrees, saying that the Internet has become a significant force, particularly in the last two years. But he also adds that its role is still tertiary or secondary at best when compared to traditional media. Movie marketing is only going to get more expensive and more competitive in the near future, and marketers will continue to explore creative uses of Internet media since TV has become somewhat less reliable than it used to be. He expects true convergence between media types to start becoming a reality in the next few years. Studios first began their online advertising on fan sites and movie Web sites such as Fandango, MovieTickets, iFilm, Hollywood.com and AOL’s Moviefone or Yahoo! Movies. Rosen says that many of the frequent visitors to these sites are so well informed that is hard to use advertising to change their attitudes. It is making more and more sense for the studios to buy broader reach online media, such as home page placements on Yahoo! or MSN. Rosen adds that it also makes sense to advertise broadly on some of the specialized portals that cater to particular demographics that match the movie title’s core audience. Recent refinements to Dynamic Logic’s MarketNorms database permit a deeper look at some metrics that are not so often talked about. Most stories look at movie awareness, the uppermost metric of the branding funnel, or purchase intent, the lowermost metric in this funnel. There is another key dimension just above purchase intent: brand favorability. For an emotional-laden product there are some interesting lessons buried here. Movie Favorability can be likeability of the cast, the star, the director or even the theme/genre, depending on the type of advertising. Once consumers are aware of a movie, social interactions among a group of individuals can be key to which movie is chosen on a particular night. (I am sure we have all had these conversations, “It’s Jude Law, I gotta see it” or “I can’t stand another Julia Roberts movie”). What influences movie favorability? Let us take a look at some metrics for some unexpected results The conventional wisdom in the movie business is that showing the star in your ad is a good thing. Focusing attention on the star to the exclusion of other elements is even better, and more so if your star is a talking animal. Over 78 percent of ads studied by Dynamic Logic featured a single “life form” (an adult, child or animal in the creative). The graph below shows that the impact of a single life form (+4.6) is less than including no life form (+11.6) or
multiple life forms (+9.3) in the movie advertisement. There may be an opportunity here for those who design online movie ads. The causes of these differences are not explained in the research and there may be some hidden logic at work, but the results are worth thinking about.
Data from Dynamic Logic also seems to bear out Rosen’s comments about marketing via portal sites. The average impact of online movie advertising on portal sites is greater than movie and entertainment sites by a slight margin, although scientifically equivalent to entertainment and movies sites. Higher income consumers have generally become more resistant to traditional media. It appears that online media more readily influences their attitudes about movie likeability. The impact among those in the highest income group is nearly 40 percent higher than those in the lowest income bracket.
Other normative data about marketing movies online from Dynamic Logic indicates that the impact of online ads on movie favorability is greatest among consumers living in the Midwest and West, and lowest among those in the Northeast. This might indicate that media buyers need to buy higher exposure to get New Englanders to change their mind. Another odd result is that the most-frequently-used ad formats under-perform compared to the formats that are used less than 5 percent of the time. This lends credence to the old saw that the fresh and new is always best in the movie business. For the record, the best performing (but rarely used) forms in Dynamic Logic movie studies were Wide Skyscrapers, Towers, and floating ads. Young people are the most avid moviegoers and the target of much movie advertising both offline and online, but some studios are looking beyond this fickle audience. Rosen points to Hispanics as underserved audiences for movies. Approaching Hispanics is not as simple as buying media on Spanish language properties. Rosen highlights key differences in the way Hispanics behave: they often see movies as a family and they seem to go to the movies more often than other ethnic groups. Also there are certain movies that appeal more to this audience, such as physical comedies, action thrillers and certain religious themes. Having worked closely with Hispanic Web sites, I can add that about half of American Hispanics
consume English language media just as vigorously as Spanish media and a smart marketer needs to factor this cross-language consumption for a successful media plan. In many ways movie marketing continues to be one of the most risky and adventurous form of marketing. With other sorts of marketing, trends are more stable and science is catching up. The Hollywood studios need to invest more resources in similar science.
The Top Movie Poster Trends (by Georgina Lavers)
I'm betting you've looked at some of the film posters adorned on the tube escalators and thought, what the fraggle rock is this? You think you can do better? Of course you can, because movie posters are an excuse to dredge up the most tired old formats and situations they can find. I'm going to gently guide you through the most notorious clichés of the movie poster. Teal and orange, wacky jostling, quirky indie writing...it's all here.
Just like movie innards, movie posters use a formula according to genre. Red lettering on a white background means a (usually pretty bad) comedy. If it’s an ensemble comedy there will be lots of friendly jostling, partial nudity and a random object (a flute, a midget lounging on a coffin) that promises madcap adventures. Gangster flicks have people standing around looking menacing, romantic dramas have girl resting head on boy’s shoulder, and romantic comedies have girl playfully ensnaring boy by lightly choking him. Here are a couple more tropes for you: 1. Open Legs
As seen in The Comebacks, 3:10 to Yuma, For Your Eyes Only, Naked, Thirst You would think that this style of postering was a little risqué. Some countries have certainly thought so; when the poster for Korean drama Thirst was released, the makers were asked (ok, it’s Korea- they were probably forced) to re-make it in a more delicate manner. So they chose to just scrap the legs, leaving the poster as a torso straddling a man. That’s even worse! The tradition of open legs started with Mr Bond and For Your Eyes Only, and since then has been repeated with surprising alacrity. Even Mike Leigh has used the cliché, adding fishnets for his film Naked. Mike Leigh, I thought better of you.
2. Why Have Words When You Can Have Number5
As seen in Iron Man 2, X-Men 3, Toy Story 3, Spiderman 3, Scream 3 They think they’re so cool, these number posters. Ooh, the weight of our franchise is so enormous that we don’t even need to tell people the title of it on the poster! I guess it saves a bundle on production; just shove a number in according to the sequel, but it feels a little lazy. The exception to this is Scream 3, because this franchise actually is recognizable (take note, Iron Man 2), and the end result is striking. 3. Quirky Indie Writing
As seen in Youth in Revolt, Eagle vs Shark, Juno, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Wackness Gah. Bloody quirky indie films, showing us how indie they are with their hand written titles and colouring in. Michael Cera is the greatest culprit here, appearing in no less than three – three! – of the titles. If a film poster ever has hand written lettering, rest assured that it will also have: a. Cool geeks b. Ironic wearing of sweatbands c. A soundtrack that includes Belle & Sebastian However, I have to let The Wackness off the hook, because when Dr Squires (Ben Kingsley) asks what gawky weed dealer Luke’s (Josh Peck) favourite music is, he says De La Soul, The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest, which are definitively the best groups ever.
4. There Will Be Sexytime
As seen in No Strings Attached, Love and Other Drugs, Blue Valentine, 9 Songs, Last Tango in Paris This poster promises the viewer that there will be lots of sexytime, no-holds-barred sexytime. Quotes on the poster should be suitably incendiary (“You’ve never seen anything this scorching in cinemas before!”) and taglines should be pervily promising; 9 Songs ‘assures viewers of 69 minutes of sex and rock’n’roll.’ Yeah yeah, 9 Songs, we get it. 5. Oranges and Blueberries
As seen in The Bourne Identity, Australia, G.I. Joe, Jumper, Stardust There are a couple of theories on this one, simply because the blue/orange colour palette is used so often, not just in posters but throughout films. One is that the colours are pretty gender neutral and don’t have any connotations (e.g. green and red = Christmas), another is that the direct compliment to skin tone (peach/orange) is blue. There’s a fascinating explanation here, which pretty much concludes that film-makers are lazy bumders.
6. This Situation Isn’t Suited to My Stereotype!
As seen in Life As We Know It, Death at a Funeral (not the good one), Knocked Up, Big Momma’s House, Date Night Now don’t get me wrong, here at BFF we would gladly let Tina Fey use our bodies as footstools, but these film posters fall under the crime of announcing themselves as wacky. They advertise the fact that the film will be based around people finding themselves in unusual situations directly out of proportion with their normal selves and exploit my desire to be held hostage by violent gangsters whilst on a date. In these kinds of movies there is usually a straight edge companion, who shakes their head and looks rueful (but amused). 7. Back to Back
As seen in Gnomeo and Juliet, Two Weeks Notice, Get Smart, Mr and Mrs Smith, Adam’s Rib I can’t think of a single situation which would necessitate me standing back to back with my boyfriend. However, Valentine’s Day is coming up…should I mock up a poster of us in this awkward pose? The most ridiculous of the poster tropes, and the most inaccurate. The next time I pay to see Two Weeks Notice I’m going to demand a refund if Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant don’t stand back to back with their arms crossed at some point in the film. I gather it indicates a love/hate relationship between the pair, where the woman is whiny/controlling and the man is whiny/childish and gosh darnit, they just have to work it out!
Kick Ass-The Harsh Reality of Virtual Marketing (by Barry Steele)
Well, the final weekend numbers came in, and it seems Kick Ass DID win the weekend box office after all. But only by the slimmest of margins, and over a movie entering its fourth week of release. So why has one of the first ‘highly anticipated’ movies of the year had such a weak showing in its first few days of release? When you write on the internet, it’s easy to get caught up in hype, and internet marketing becomes the centre of your work. When a trailer is released, and the hits go nuclear, it’s only natural to assume the movie is going to be big. What we forget is that the internet movie fans only make up a small corner of cinematic audiences, and in general it tends to be a fairly specific audience – a geek one. The kind of people who frequent internet movie sites are the ones that tend to enjoy comic book movies the most, that look forward to humorous action movies, and that can appreciate the kind of work and thought that has gone into a project like Kick Ass. The story of Kick Ass has been heavily documented from the first clips at last year’s Comic-Con. We have followed the problems that Mathew Vaughn has experienced looking for a distributor, we have read all about the way the movie has been developed in parallel with the comic, and we have seen every second of footage of every trailer and TV spot. The problem is, of course, that the mainstream movie audience have never even heard of it. The mainstream, or casual audience, or whatever you choose to call it, don’t get too involved with internet marketing. Yes, the internet is now present in a large percentage of homes, but the vast majority don’t use it to trawl through movie news, they don’t take films as overseriously as people like me, and the most exposure they have to online promotion is flash adverts on the Google news page. Most people who go to see movies make their choices through print and television marketing. Billboards on the street, trailers between tv shows, and the occasional full page splash in a national tabloid. Then there are those that just turn up at their local Vue or Odeon and choose which poster looks good. Look at it from the point of view of this audience. They see a makeshift superhero, in a shoddy looking costume, and don’t recognise any of the names on the poster. What is going to draw this audience in to a movie like Kick Ass? The trailer combines the puerile humour with over the top action sequences, sketching out a movie a million miles away from The Dark Knight model of comic book adaptations. With big effects movies like Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland drawing the eye with cutting edge CGI, big star names like Johnny Depp, and the promise of 3D, Kick Ass looks cheap in comparison, and today’s popcorn audiences want blockbuster movies. Compare Kick Ass to Iron Man, and you can see why Iron Man is going to challenge box office records, and make more money on its opening night than Kick-Ass is likely to do in its whole run. The huge, big budget special effects sequences, explosive action scenes, the star power of Robert Downey Jr backed up by Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Don Cheadle. Add to this the recognition that now exists in the mainstream for the character, and the fact that it is a Marvel property, the most widely known comic publisher, and there really is no contest. It is a great shame it has to be like this. More thought will probably have gone into one scene of Kick Ass than the whole plot of Iron Man 2. And the same problem will probably hold for the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The internet went into meltdown when the trailer was released online, with millions of hits within minutes. Again, because of this, it appears the movie will be huge. But it is a virtually unknown property away from the online crowd, and much like Kick Ass, the ridiculous amount of hits is in part down to the scores of people that watched the trailer multiple times.
You never know, though, business for Kick Ass might pick up, and Vaughn’s film could end with a respectable run. For the sake of the potential sequel, we have to hope this is the case. As it stands, the worldwide box office gross will be enough to cover costs and afford the smallest of profits, but in order to make a sequel a financially viable endeavour, word of mouth will have to be strong enough to allow a second weekend total similar to the first weekend. This isn’t impossible, the run of How To Train Your Dragon is proving this. Many people have seen it multiple times, and it is increasing its gross by an impressive percentage week on week right now. There isn’t a great deal of competition at the coming weekend, so we’ll have to wait and see if Kick Ass can begin to do the same. Here’s hoping. I’d love to see a sequel, and I think Mathew Vaughn deserves success for the gamble he took on the project, and the hard work he put into securing it a theatrical run in the first place.