Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why So Serious? -Transmedia Storytelling and Produsage in The Dark Knight

I guess everyone of us have heard about Christopher Nolan’s movie The Dark Knight (2008). In my opinion, it is a great movie, but the marketing of the movie might be even better and relates very closely to transmedia storytelling and produsage.

To have a clue what I am talking about, take a look in this this video.

So, my case focuses on the alternate reality game (ARG) “Why So Serious? The Dark Knight“, by Warner Bros and 42 Entertainment to promote the movie. The campaign was launched in May 2007, about 15 months before the release of the movie and witnessed participation from millions of enthusiasts from across the world. The campaign revolved around The Joker one of the characters of the movie, and was set in the fictional Gotham city. The game included activities mainly in Internet, but as well in real-life.

The campaign started with some teasers followed by a fictional political campaign of Harvey Dent, with the caption ”I believe in Harvey Dent.” Soon after this, the introduction of The Joker followed quickly when 42 Entertainment established also a ”jokerized” version of the site, called ”I believe in Harvey Dent too” where e-mails sent by fans slowly removed pixels, revealing the first official image of the Joker.

-The first official image of Heath Ledger's Joker. From here.

After this, 42 Entertainment launched, sending fans on a scavenger hunt to unlock a teaser trailer and a new photo of the Joker. On October 2007, the film’s website morphed into another scavenger hunt with hidden messages, instructing fans to uncover clues at certain locations in major cities throughout the United States, and to take photographs of their discoveries. The clues combined to reveal a new photograph of the Joker and an audio clip of him from the film saying ”And tonight, you're gonna break your one rule.”

Completing the scavenger hunt also led to another website called Rory's Death Kiss, where fans could submit photographs of themselves costumed as the Joker. Those who sent photos got a copy of a fictional newspaper called The Gotham Times, whose electronic version led to the discovery of numerous other websites.

The Joker even tested his hard-core fans by launching a real life carnival themed scavenger hunt. He placed packages at 22 different addresses around the country. Players who solved the clues and reached the packages first, received a cake with a Joker -cell phone inside, as you could see in the video.

The ARG was highly successful and helped in establishing connection between the previous Batman movie, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The campaign ended from where the film took off. The success of any ARG is measured through user content and the Dark Knight -ARG resulted in thousands of blog posts, Google searches, websites and participants. The success of ARG translated into the success of the film which, for example, won two Oscars and 79 other awards.

- Joker, Batman and Harvey Dent. Pick yours. From here.

This sort of interactivity is not only the essence of viral marketing; it’s also the heart of transmedia storytelling. When a studio provides mysteries and answers through cross media platforms, fans essentially become willing participants in marketing the movie. Participants of the game were able to look at all movie posters, trailers, photos, and movie clips before anyone else. Of course, this was partly to market the movie, but it was also to market it in such way, which made it the fans movie. Just wondering how Warner Bros is going to market their next Batman -movie, which should be released in summer 2012. We will see.

Ps. all honor to Heath Ledger. He was a brilliant Joker.
Pps. If you are willing to know more about this subject, check this out.

Saara Ala-Luopa

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