For film fans that are too young to remember, the viral marketing for The Dark Knight was truly next level. Hidden websites, secret codes, and live-action elements made up this machine that hyped up the film from Christopher Nolan without ever revealing a frame of footage from the movie, and much of it was fan driven. A new oral history on how this was created and unfolded has been published at IGN (and is well worth the read) but one element that came as a huge surprise was the willingness that they could get other vendors to go along with their Joker-inspired plans.
Among them? Bakeries that were totally willing to bake a functioning cell phone into a cake as part of their ARG (Alternate Reality Game). In the piece the team recounted how at one point in developing and executing the campaign they were given a directive to find ways to "integrate products from the corporations that had branding deals on The Dark Knight," including Nokia.
"We had to figure out how to integrate phones, and I think we had less than two weeks to figure out how we were going to execute it," Alex Lieu, Chief Creative Officer and Director/Experience Designer for the campaign told the outlet. "We get this idea, and we go into Susan (Bonds, CEO and Producer of the campaign)’s office and say, 'We need to call some bakeries.' And she's like, "'What are you talking about?' 'We’re gonna hide phones in cakes.' And she's like, 'That’s never gonna happen.'"
Lieu continued, "Susan’s like, 'Look, I'll call three bakeries just to humor you guys.' And every single one was like, 'Oh, yeah, we can do that, no problem. We hide stuff in cakes all the time.'"
Twenty two cakes with phones inside them were created and produced by twenty two bakeries across the US. What fans had to do to find them was follow some GPS coordinates and once there tell whoever is present that their name is "Robin Banks." They'd then be given a cake with clown decorations and a phone number written on it, calling the number would cause the phone inside the cake to start ringing.
"They’d take the cake outside and call the number, and the darn cake would start ringing," Michael Borys (VP of Interaction and Game Design) added. "You’d dig in, and pull out a Gotham City evidence bag with a phone from the Joker. We asked them to keep this phone charged for the entirety of the campaign, because the Joker might be calling at any minute."
Lieu also revealed some instances where players took major steps to make sure they could get their hands on the cake, including bribing employees at a nearby shop to pick up the cake for them, and one person that sent his wife to get it during a blizzard.
"So he sent his wife out to go get the cake — but it was literally the middle of a blizzard," Lieu revealed. "And she was off the grid for, like, an hour. And people were like, 'Where’s your wife, man? Are you lying? Did you really get the cake?' And this poor woman is on the highway, in a snowstorm, with this Joker cake."
The cake stunt not only went off without a hitch but tied into the opening sequence of the movie too. Apparently the narrative of the cake stunt was that The Joker was looking for a Bus driver's badge from the Gotham City school system. As you may recall, The Joker needed a bus for his escape in the opening scene of the movie. Read the full history of the Why So Serious? campaign over at IGN.