Today's L.A. Times explores the complex alternate-reality game Warner Bros. is using to promote this summer's new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The game, which has included Websites, phone numbers skywritten over Comic-Con, and ringing cell phones baked inside cakes, is described breathlessly by the Times as "one of the most interactive movie-marketing campaigns ever hatched by Hollywood"; the article treats alternate-reality games as if they are some newfangled revolution that will forever change the way Hollywood marketers do business.
Now, we're not really fans of the "Look, ha-ha, the [insert publication here] is so late on this story" blog post; God knows we are late on things all the time, and our feelings are always hurt when others point it out. But we have to make an exception here, because — well, really, the Los Angeles Times is the newspaper in Los Angeles, the home of the movies, so it is crazy that this story is running on March 24, 2008. Crazy for two reasons!
1. It's crazy because the Dark Knight campaign has been running forever. It started last summer, around the time that attendees to Comic-Con in San Diego were treated to a citywide scavenger hunt by the Warner Bros. marketing team. When we wrote about it in January, we were already five months late!
2. It's crazy because, as everyone except the L.A. Times already knows, there's nothing new about a blockbuster movie advertising via an alternate-reality game. But they should know, because they mention by name one of the founders of the concept. Jordan Weisman, the head of 42 Entertainment — the independent marketing company who is managing the Dark Knight ARG for Warner Bros. — wouldn't talk to the Times for this piece. But Weisman was one of the creators of the Beast, the famously immersive and revolutionary ARG that advertised Steven Spielberg's A.I. way back in 2001.
Sure, the Dark Knight campaign has more money, but it's not substantially different from other ARGs — and will have similarly little to do, in the end, with how well the movie does at the box office. When The Dark Knight makes a gazillion dollars, it won't be because of a handful of enthusiastic gamers; it'll be because everyone and his sister wants to see the awesome new Batman movie.