When Slashfilm posted pictures of anti-Dent, protesting clowns, I was overjoyed. Their placards spewing “Dent is two faced!”, “Change we can’t believe in!” and “Your future decided with a coin flip!” were not only culturally relevant, they marked the movement of The Dark Knight‘s viral marketing into the next phase. People showing up to a Dentmobile is one thing, but people donning clown masks and showing up to protest is another.
The fans are taking things into their own hands.
One has to wonder whether a film this huge even needs viral marketing, though. To be fair, its campaign is clever, interactive, and timely considering the current (actual) election cycle, but it’s not much more innovative than most other viral movements.
At the base, it’s a secret website that calls together fans to be at a certain place at a certain time for a certain reason – the exact model created by the first successful flash mob in 2003 when Bill Wasik gathered a group of people to stare at an expensive rug at a Macy’s for an allotted amount of time. In that regard, little has changed.
Plus, even though Dark Knight is certainly putting its own coin flip on things, it’s doubtful whether the advertising will really hit people who were unaware of the film – since practically everyone already knows about, what might be considered to be the most highly anticipated movie of the year.
But things are getting interesting, and you have to hand it to them. My initial thought about those clowns at the rally was quickly overcome by the question of whether they were genuine fans or paid plants. What if they were just another part of the paid-for advertising portion of today’s side show?
That is, of course, the genius of it. Not knowing, not being sure of the reality of the marketing, is all part of the fun. That question has cemented itself – and the movie – in my mind all day. If the clowns were fans, marketers have done a good job of getting the common man to do their dirty work for them. If they’re paid, they’ve added another layer of mystery to the cross-country faux-campaign to elect Harvey Dent. Either way, The Dark Knight and its ad wizards win. To give them even more credit, I’d say it’s safe to assume that they’re advertising as much for the third film in the franchise as they are for the upcoming Joker-fest this summer. You can be sure we’ll still be talking about this when the next installment rolls around.
I’m excited to see where the admen and fans take this thing. How long before we see a “One Million Strong for Dent” group on Facebook? How long before Harvey Dent challenges Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to a live debate? How long before YouTube clips of Dent’s fanatical pastor hit the web and threaten his chances of getting elected District Attorney?
So maybe it’s not that innovative, but it sure is fun. And memorable. And in the true spirit of this endeavor, I hope to see everyone at the polls and at the box office come July. It’s time to take back our city.
We are the change we’ve been waiting for.