Why So Serious?

Almost a decade ago Warner Brothers and 42 Entertainment set out to create an interactive experience that would launch The Dark Knight into the public spotlight. The campaign set out to bring Gotham City into the real world by allowing users to dress up as characters, hunt for clues, and participate in challenges. The entire experience took 15 months, spanned the entire globe, and amassed almost 11 million participants.

The activation had users bring Gotham City into the real world by sending them on tasks to create an immersive experience where they were the citizens of Gotham. There were campaign rallies in support of Harvey Dent, fan pages dedicated to Batman and his vigilante justice, and most importantly the Jokers Minions. The Joker sent his following on tasks in order to take down corruption in Gotham City. Flocks of people in Joker makeup hit the streets in order to take photos with specific landmarks. Joker Phone’s were delivered in cakes, pizza boxes, and could be found at bowling alleys.

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The entire campaign was there to give fans of the classic comic series the chance to live life as if they lived in Gotham. It combined internet, print, and personal interactions in order to craft the experience which only augmented the reality it was trying to present. What was ingenious about it was that even though it lasted for almost 15 months, it never lost its appeal to the fans. By making sure the narrative was set to constantly evolve, participants were able to always able to experience something new which made them want to stay involved for that long.

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The campaign also worked as a way to convince fans that casting Heath Ledger was the correct path for the franchise. Many fans were uncertain about the role going to him, and by slowly rolling out who the character was, especially with those who participated in the Joker related tasks, solidified him as the new Jokers and help set fears aside. It also introduced them to the new characters in a more subtle, personal way, especially with the replacement of Katie Holmes (who played Rachel Dawes) with Maggie Gyllenhaal. It also created a way to extend the ending of Batman Begins and tie it into The Dark Knight, so the fans were already used to the new tone of the film.

By crafting it to be an international experience, users were able to share the experience with fans from around the world, not just within the US. It meant that people could grow with the experience, and get excited to see what users in other countries would do. The only downside to this model was the fact that the climax of the event (displaying the Bat Signal on top of two buildings at premieres in the US), limited the culminating experience for the rest of the world. After months and months of having the entire world participate in the experience, US fans were the only ones to see the end game. Spanning out the finale, or at least giving the international participants a final experience, would have enhanced the way they ended off such an iconic piece of advertising.