Marketing, Heath Ledger and ‘The Dark Knight’

Ms. Adverthinker, a local advertising/marketing blogger, has been thinking on this, and now Slate magazine wonders how film execs will market “The Dark Knight” after the death of one its stars, Heath Ledger:

Warner has kept largely mum about how it will manage its big investment in The Dark Knight after Ledger’s sad and untimely death. The studio is still figuring out what to do not just with the film but with products like T-shirts and toys. In fact, the studio has set a big meeting for today to discuss those merchandising questions.

There’s more at stake here than you might think. While principal photography on the film, in which Ledger plays the Joker, has been done for some time, much of the marketing that would help sell the movie has barely been set into motion. According to Slate, efforts like having the Joker call to fans’ cell phones might have to be scrapped. And then there’s the licensing of Ledger’s image for use on T-shirts and toys that have to be considered.

Warner was proceeding with a degree of caution even before Ledger’s demise because of the intensity of the Joker’s character in the film. For some products, the cartoon image of the Joker was already being used. And Ledger did photo shoots so that his likeness could be used on certain products such as T-shirts.

Now Warner has to figure out what to do with products bearing that likeness. “You don’t want people to think you’re exploiting his death,” the source explains. “But his character is part of the movie, and he was on board with wanting to do this with his character.” And if Warner doesn’t release the merchandise, “The pirates would come out of the woodwork, and then it’s completely out of control.”

The bottom line: Expect some changes from Warner, plus a gradual shift in marketing toward the franchise’s next villain, Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face, who’s also in the film.

How will Warner Bros. market The Dark Knight without Heath Ledger? – By Kim Masters – Slate Magazine


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