‘Dark Knight’ campaign takes no prisoners

Heath Ledger as the Joker in 'The Dark Knight' (Warner Bros.)The long wait is almost over. Friday we finally get to watch Batman kick the bad guys out of Gotham once again. Who can blame us fans for our restlessness, after being bombarded by Warner Brothers’ marketing campaign for over a year now?

“The Dark Knight” cost 180 million to make, and millions more have been spent on the year long ad campaign. In addition to the traditional trailers, the marketers used a mix of ARG (Alternate Reality Gaming) and viral marketing to create this frenzy.

Since they don’t make land anymore, “Dark Knight” marketers did the next best thing: they created Gotham city online. Multiple sites have popped up over the net to create this effect, from Gotham National Bank, the police department, the school district, and even Gotham’s own pizzeria and cab service. The Joker too had his own Website, (whysoserious.com), which among other scary things, had a clicking time bomb. When the countdown on this “bomb” ended on the 10th of July, the Joker apparently “defaced” all of these websites.

Interactive and elaborate campaign sites for Gotham’s district attorney election also cropped up online (Ibelieveinharveydent.com). Fans could register on these sites, which allowed them to interact with them. In select locations, fans went on scavenger hunts, armed with the clues that popped up on these Websites. The hunt ended with the “Bat signal” being projected onto the Sears towers in Chicago and the Woolworth building in NY.

Sounds complicated? No wonder there is a whole wiki site devoted just to helping us keep up with the campaign.

Of course, this is also a good time for the studios to cash in on the previous batman releases: “Batman Begins” was released on Blu Ray and “Batman: Gotham knight,” an Animatrix-style animated film was also released on Blu Ray. Directed by six celebrated Japanese anime directors, these tales link the storyline between “Batman Begins,” and the new “Dark Knight.”

“The Dark Knight” ad campaign has no doubt been successful, and theaters are holding extra shows for the movie premiere, (3 am and 6 am shows!). And I won’t be surprised if the “Dark Knight” rides off with this year’s biggest grossing opening weekend.