We’ll take it from here guys…

You know that old Steve Jobs quote – the one that goes ‘be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected’. Well it kind of combines with this point about protecting agency value around the creative output that I talked about here. And it’s even more relevant when we consider that the ‘the environment’ we operate in is a highly unstable, techno-soup of volatility.

The margin between what we get paid to deliver for our clients & what they feel that they can manage on their own is constantly under threat. More now than ever. It’s a fine, fine line between the agency generating valuable momentum & the client releasing something that takes off with it’s own propulsion.

A recent high profile example of this is the way the viral content is being handled for what is potentially the largest entertainment launch this year. The dark knight rises.

3 years ago – Team Nolan engaged 42 Entertainment to build a sophisticated Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that most would take credit for building pre-launch buzz in what was (at the time) the largest box office opening day ever recorded. I’ve blogged about The Dark Knight stuff that did well at Cannes before here. 

What seems to be happening this time around is that Warner Bros have taken control of the viral work for ‘in house’. The core fan base have gone into meltdown on the forums like Superherohype as more mainstream entertainment websites like TMZ, Entertainment weekly, Variety etc are driving the pre-launch conversation. With the film release still 5 months away the level of interactive storytelling has been pretty poor BUT – and this is the important point – the first night tickets at opening IMAX cinema’s in the US have already sold out.

Is Warner Bros riding off the back of the buzz pre-generated from the fanboys with the 42 Entertainment campaign? Or have they infiltrated & weaponized them? Are the pre-production/location & production ‘spy pics’ that  were reported by papers such as Aftonbladet here in Sweden or The Mirror in the UK a clear indication that this films fan base has crossed the chasm?

Did 42 Entertainment become a victim of their own success & generate enough momentum from the last campaign to prevent their engagement this time around? Or has the landscape & connectivty changed so much in 3 years that the reality becomes the event. I.e there is no need for an ‘alternative’.

The world is getting smaller & smaller. With packs of ‘Fanboy Ninja’s’ following location to location to location (from Scotland, to England, to India, to LA, to NY) & capturing footage on handicams the drama unfolded in realtime with the production. The hyper-connectivity of the ‘Fanboy Ninja’s’ & exclusivity of this content  meant that they could co-ordinate their own treasure hunt without the need for a company like Entertainment 42 to create ‘interactive content’. Maybe some of the ‘controlled access’ to shoot locations & some of the photography released was to ‘tip gasoline on the fire’ as Eric puts it here. The fact that some of the ‘unofficial pics’ turned up on Getty kind of suggests that Warner Bros planted roster photographers into some of the more extra heavy scenes to leak this out to news outlets on purpose. If this proves to be correct (which WB neither confirms or denies) then it’s a brilliant, brilliant strategy but throws up a pretty big, shiny red flag for agencies.

The key lesson here is that clients are getting more & more switched onto to managing their ‘exclusive content’ than ever. And in this uncertain landscape it’s another key reason why the account handler has to be the client guardian not just of ‘the work’ but of the environment in which the work will work. This is the only way that we can keep protecting the value that clients expect us to provide & be that ‘yardstick of quality’.


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