Well played, Nolan. The promotional website for The Dark Knight Rises is up, and it's not your typical piece of flashy publicity. Take a gander. It's just a 23-second clip of some weird chanting. What the hell is this and what does it have to do with Batman?
Some clever kids downloaded the .wav file upon discovering the website and investigated. Run it through a spectroscopy program and you'll find it's more than just sound. There's text hidden in the file, made visible by software that converts sound data to images. It reads "#TheFireRises".
It's a Twitter hashtag, of course. More curious fans tweeted it to see what would happen. An account with the same name appeared. It tweeted a URL. The URL led to an image--a composite mosaic of the film's villain Bane. It was rapidly being filled in by tiles. Each tile was a profile picture of a Twitter user who had tweeted the tag.
Enough people (about six thousand) tweeted #TheFireRises to complete the image, and it melted into a smooth still photograph. A promo shot was revealed through the participation of fans whose faces collaged it into being.
Kind of neat, right? The film's production team knows that people like to be involved in the months leading up to an anticipated new flick, so they made a little game for us. It seems to have been won for now, but we'll see if more promotional images will be revealed in similar ways.
I think it's cool that Dark Knight Rises is doing this sort of thing just for fun. Plenty of films have used mysterious viral advertising to garner interest, but most of the time it's a tactic used to foster a fanbase where there is none. Cloverfield was one of the more fun viral publicity games in recent memory. That strange trailer that aired before Transformers hooked thousands of people who were determined to figure out just what J. J. Abrams was up to. But Nolan doesn't need that kind of hook to gather fans. He's already got them by the thousands. So this isn't a scheme--nobody's trying to trick us into caring about a movie we don't know about yet. It's just a little bit of fun leading up to the premiere. Fans are made to feel involved as they uncover more information about a movie they're probably going to like anyway. It might not be as exciting as unearthing a brand new franchise from scratch, but at least we're being integrated into the promotional process. Intelligent advertising for the win.