Not the Advertising Campaign it
deserved, but the one it needed.
The Advertising Campaign
of the Dark Knight
Batman was a comic book character
created by Bob Kane. Rapidly
becoming popular, over the years
Batman went through a series of
different incarnations ranging from
campy to dystopian. Famous
examples of comic books with him
in it include “The Killing Joke” and
“The Dark Knight Returns”. Along
with Superman and Wonder
Woman, Batman is one of the most
famous DC Comics superheroes.
The large fan-base he has means
that any movie he’s in is assured an
audience however good the film
ultimately turns out to be.
Batman has undergone
both positively and
history. Tim Burton’s
Batman film was positively
reviewed by critics. Later
attempts, like Batman and
Robin, were not.
The first film in what would
become known as the “Dark
Knight Trilogy” was “Batman
Begins”. Released in 2005 to
critical acclaim, it reinvented
Batman Films with a darker edge
and an emphasis on the themes
of fear and corruption. The film’s
major success virtually
guaranteed a sequel.
The cast from Batman Begins returned mostly unaltered, with the
exception of the replacement of Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhall.
Gillian Murphy got a cameo as the Scarecrow, reprising his role from
Batman Brgins, but the most important new cast members were Aaron
Eckhart as Harvey Dent and the controversial choice of Heath Ledger as
the Joker. For Batman’s most iconic villain, it seemed incomprehensible
that an actor specializing in romcoms should be chosen.
The Joker is Batman's archenemy; the peak of his Rouge's gallery. Just as
Spiderman 2's advertising campaign dwelt around the new adversary
Doctor Octopus, the advertising campaign of the new “Dark Knight” film
was largely influenced by the Joker. This was made even more important by
the previous Tim Burton Batman film (1989) in which “Jack Nicholson won
praise for his deranged take on the comic-book villain”. This left The Dark
Knight with big shoes to fill, especially compared to Batman Begins, which
had used villains that were much less iconic in popular culture with the
Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul. The advertising campaign focussed heavily on
this new, even darker incarnation. Much of the advertising had a viral
nature, playing upon the symbolism and madness of the Joker to create fan
As you can see from this poster, the marketing
company is relying on the Joker’s iconic methods
to make him stand out. For this, less is very much
more, as the sparse pane of glass draws out the
red of the lipstick, making it resemble blood. It
also makes the Joker seem blurry, adding a sense
of enigma to the picture.
However, the focus on Joker was disrupted when tragedy
struck. The actor who played Joker in the film, Heath Ledger,
died from a toxic combination of prescription drugs. This forced
the makers of the film to change marketing strategy. Most of
the viral marketing, which had done it’s work anyway, was
The viral marketing campaign had included teaser trailers dealing with the interplay between
the Joker and Harvey Dent’s political campaign. Harvey Dent, a D.A., becomes Two-Face in the
The new marketing focus was on the other Batman
villain to appear in the film: Two-Face. The marketing of
Two-Face never gave any reference to the madman
himself, as D.A. Harvey Dent does not become him until
late in the film and his transformation is one of the
film’s primary story arcs. Instead his fake advertisement
campaign received attention. This subtle approach
allowed fans to generate a viral hype of the character.
The movie was released in 2008 during the summer, a standard release
date for blockbusters as the principal audience –the teenagers and young
adults that make up most of the population of comic book fans would be
out of school.
Tie-in material would include the usual assortment of action figures and
McDonalds toys. Interestingly, though a video game was planned for the
Dark Knight, it was cancelled and the award winning Batman: Arkham
Asylum was released instead, which spawned its own series of sequels.
The Dark Knight received critical acclaim (94% positive reviews from Rotten
Tomatoes. It was positively received by fans and Heath Ledger won a posthumous
Oscar for his role as the Joker. The total worldwide gross was $1,004,558,444, a
resounding financial success. An interesting point to note is although a lot of
praise did come from comic book sites like IGN and largely viewer-based sites like
IMDB, the appreciation was matched by serious film critics like Roger Ebert, who
gave it four stars and said that: “The "comic book movie" has at last reclaimed its
deep archetypal currents.”
The production companies involved in creating the Dark
Legendary pictures: Action and sci-fi focus on films
Syncopy Films: A small production company set up by Nolan
and his wife.
And DC comics: the actual owner of Batman.
The distribution company was the massive Warner Bros pictures. Warner
Bros do everything they can license essentially.