Guerrilla Ambient and Viral Movie Marketing (4): Cloverfield ‘V’ The Dark Knight

In previous parts I’ve looked at the use of new and unconventional marketing methods such as Guerrilla, Ambient and Viral techniques since 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Part 4 focuses on two of the biggest films of 2008 Cloverfield and The Dark Knight.

Released in early 2008, this film had audiences talking right from the get go with an astonishingly different trailer released the previous summer. It stood out for several reasons. Not only did it look to be entirely shot on a camcorder, but it featured a huge monster which we didn’t get to see, and the film had no name. Online buzz was rife with potential names and Cloverfield was one of the early suggestions, but to most the film was only known as 18.01.08 (its release date). With the film taking a visual cue from The Blair Witch, both were shot in a hand held style, and neither film featured footage of the ‘monster’, so is it any wonder then that much of the marketing parallels that of the Blair Witch Project?

Lets start with that trailer again…

While the campaign featured more traditional elements such as the use of TV trailers to promote the film, there was a lot more going on online. The trailer (and the film) expands on the ‘reality TV’ visual concept, making use of social network profiles of the Films characters and updating them in real-time, so, as Movie Marketing Madness points out ‘when its December 15th in our world its December 15th in the Movie’s world’.

The drink Slusho also became an important element of the marketing campaign. It’s a drink made by the Tagruato Corporation that features an ingredient called ‘seabed nectar’. It was eventually revealed through the real-time timeline that Rob was going to work for the company in Japan, hence the going away party at the start of the film. Visitors to the site Slusho website could read up on the product, get downloads and were even encouraged to create a Slusho advert. The Tagruato Corporation then became the subject of fake news reports that showed the destruction of an off shore drilling station owned by the company. The cause of the destruction is unclear.

Further online content included a fake website with video content posted by the characters Jamie and Teddy who were dating. Teddy goes to Japan to work for Tagruato only to be kidnapped. He manages to send Jamie a parcel with a note and something wrapped in tinfoil, believed to be the seabed nectar. Jamie eats it and goes nuts. Eight of the ten videos in the series can still be be viewed online here.

Rating… While Snakes on a Plane proved that generating pre release hype does not guarantee runaway success for a film, Cloverfield managed to live up to its hype and went onto become the biggest January opening for a film ever. Releasing such a trailer without a name was always going to grab the viewers attention and the content of that trailer alone probably would have been enough to get decent returns. What I liked most about this campaign was its use of real time. Much like the Blair Witch the web was used to elaborate on the films story by providing background on the characters and key elements such as Tagruato, and these were also developed upon as the films release date got closer. 8/10

Sources: Well worth reading Movie Marketing Madness as it has a much more in depth look at the films marketing

The Dark Knight
The campaign for the second Christian Bale Batman centred on an Alternate Reality game (ARG) called ‘Why So Serious’. The people behind it were 42 Entertainment, a company formed by many of the same people who worked on AI’s marketing with Microsoft in 2003 (and covered in Part 2).

The Why So Serious’ marketing took many elements of AI’s game ‘The Beast’, only to elaborate on its complexity. There was a number of websites to support the fictional Gotham including a Gotham City Subway, Gotham Times, Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign and The Joker’s website The latter played a crucial role in the marketing of the film.

The Joker’s site included a ‘to do’ list, initially with just three items, this was added to as the movie’s release date got closer. The first item on the list was ‘Participate in local election but make it all about me’ – a reference to Harvey Dent’s Mayoral campaign. This took place on May 18th 2007, a full 14 months before the film was released. The list also went on to include 14 items (full list here). The items included; the Joker recruiting an army, encouraging fans to dress as the joker at Halloween and submit their picture, the most impressive received gifts and notes from The Joker and scavenger hunts that lead to private screenings of vandelised Dark Knight trailer. See the trailer below

Select participants ‘won’ mobile phones through two of the games that gave them a direct line with The Joker. The first began as an online game on the  The page revealed a series of real locations around the USA and players were encouraged to go to these locations and collect something under the name ‘Robin Banks’. Once they arrived at the location (always a bakery) they were given a box with a cake and a phone number on it. Inside the cake was a phone, a charger and a Joker playing card with instructions. The cakes were distributed on a first come first served basis. Callers got through to ‘Rent A Clown’ and then received a text telling them to keep the phone at all times.

A second phone hunt occurred in April of 2008 originating from a website called ClownTravelAgency This consisted of a list of 26 locations, mostly in the USA, but also London, Paris, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo and also a clue that read “Ready to have a ball? A special bag of fun awaits the first to claim it, but you’d better strike fast, there’s no time to spare”. It eventually lead to a locker in bowling alley’s, the reward to those who found the locker first was a bowling ball, engraved with a number and a police evidence bag with a mobile phone and charger.

Watch a news report from the USA on this.

These select participants with mobiles were contacted via texts to reveal several hidden online games that uncovered more hidden games and clues. Eventually this lead to a page offering free tickets to pre release screenings of the film.

Rating… Interactivity between brand and consumer is one way of getting past consumers general malaise towards marketing. Just how interactive can marketing get than having a direct line to the film’s protagonist? The marketing campaign lasted for 14 months and provided a level of immersion previously unseen in marketing, the game didn’t revolve around just the USA either with some, although, limited options for those who live outside the states. The game centred on The Joker, maybe because it’s easier to market the ‘dark side’, but also maybe because The Joker hadn’t appeared in a batman film for almost 20 years and what a perfect way to introduce and build a fiendish persona for the character before the opening credits of the film had rolled. This was an astonishingly creative campaign of great depth and global reach. It has surely set the bar for others to follow.

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