Back in the good old days, politicians traveled the country to drum up support. These trips, often by train and then later by bus, were the ideal opportunity to drum up grass roots support. When television and the Internet came along, much of the value was lost, although politicians still rack up the frequent flyer miles.
So how do you add some spicy marketing to a new movie today? Why not combine the old time thrill of the traveling politician with the current Internet viral marketing process? That’s what Warner Brothers has done for the new Batman flick - The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent is in this second film in the current franchise, played by always smooth and political Aaron Eckhart. To help promote the film, they put together a campaign for Harvey, which is supported by a very well done website at isupportharveydent.com. For one week or so, the ‘Dentmobile’ traveled across the U.S., stopping in various towns (especially college towns) to hand out t-shirts, bumper stickers, and other goodies so that you can show your support for the DA of Gotham City and his fight to take back the city.
I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a town blessed by not one but TWO large universities. You couldn’t get a town more ripe for this sort of nerdfest, and the promoters knew it, scheduling three separate stops around town. At 11am, I headed over to the Briarwood Mall, the first stop on their route around the city. Now, while Warner Brothers knew AA was a town to hit, apparently the Briarwood Mall didn’t see the value. They booted them off the property, but the Dentmobile found a home in the furniture store parking lot connected to the Mall parking lot anyway.
Being the intrepid reporter that I’m not, I managed to forget my camera. However, a fellow Dent supporter named Daniel Pearson was kind enough to take some exceptional shots and allow me to use them. Thanks, Daniel!
Once they had the logistics worked out, the folks in the van started setting up and handing out goodies. There was the usual stickers, buttons, signs, and t-shirts, and they even had the t-shirts in multiple sizes, rather than the usual “I got any size you want as long as it’s XL” routine.
A quick word about the weather - we were freezing our asses off. March in Michigan is a weird month. The weather varies wildly, with unseasonable warm and unseasonably cold days more common than average temperature days. Unfortunately for us Michiganders, the whole month has been unseasonably cold, with no real break. Last Friday, when temps in the 50’s wouldn’t have been unusual, it was closer to 30 with a nasty wind chill. Not really weather for standing out in the parking lot in your new free t-shirt.
Just to keep things lively, a few of the Joker’s supporters showed up as well, all carrying protest signs of their own. My favorite was “Dent is Two Faced”, but they were all amuzing in their own right.
Both the Dentmobile folks and the Joker supporters did a fine job remaining in character, even partaking in a bit of the playful banter. Earlier the Brinks truck was making the rounds at the mall, but unfortunately the Joker henchmen weren’t there at the same time. Brink’s guards carting large sacks of money out of the building while guys wearing white covers over their faces cavorted around them would have made for a potentially amusing situation.
The Dentmobile guys rallied people to show their support, waving their signs as cars went by. Okay, so a mall parking lot on a Friday morning isn’t exactly Grand Central Station, but they managed to get a few honks.
They also had us signing petitions, and some of the folks represented larger groups who had already signed petitions that they were delivering. All in the name of taking back Gotham City! They didn’t want to discuss the vigilante Batman…
All in all, it seemed like a relative success. I got a free t-shirt, as well as a nifty sign to hang in my office. Sure, it makes absolutely no real sense - why would a guy running for DA in some city be traveling the country, when your vote doesn’t count? - but they aren’t trying to get votes, they’re trying to get ticket sales. And who knows, perhaps Dent and his running for office has far more to do with the actual plot of the film than we realize now. I know I’ll be there on opening day…but being the Bat-whore I am, I didn’t really need a free t-shirt to convince me to do that.
Since you never know how these things might turn out, I made sure I smoozed up the Joker henchmen as well…
So remember, believe in Harvey Dent! He’s going to take back Gotham City…or at least help Warner Brothers make a hundred million bucks or so.
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