The Joker’s latest task is a Piece of Cake

tdk_postersmall.jpgIt’s been a while since we’ve reported on the alternate reality game for the upcoming movie The Dark Knight, but that doesn’t mean that the action has stopped. In fact, on December 4th, after a long trail of tasks, websites and information spawning from a Halloween countdown from late October, fans of Batman and players of the marketing campaign were treated to a day-long, frenzied scavenger hunt set up by “the Joker”.

At noon EST, the mysterious countdown that was previously featured on was replaced by a strange carnival-style booth, in typical Joker fashion. A note attached instructed viewers to travel to specific real-world addresses to pick up a ‘very special treat’ under the name Robin Banks (get it? Robbing Banks? hahaha!)

Players quickly determined that the addresses were bakeries, strewn across the United States. At first, six addresses were attached to dirty stuffed animals hanging in the booth, but every hour on the hour, another five to seven addresses were hung. Within five hours, all twenty-two addresses had been revealed, as players scrambled to each location to pick up the ‘treat’.

It was discovered that the Joker had left cakes at each bakery, and lo and behold, the cakes had phone numbers written on them in icing! Even more interesting was how, when the number was called, the cake itself rang! Players found that after digging furiously into the cake, there was an evidence bag filled with goodies – a cell phone and charger, a Joker playing card, and a note which instructed the person to call a different phone number.

Once all the cakes had been found and the phones had been used to call the new numbers, the game page opened to reveal the new Batman: Dark Knight movie poster, and another special treat – invitations to IMAX screenings in five cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto) on Thursday and Friday night, Dec 6th and 7th.

Where does that leave us?

  • 22 people have re-usable cell phones and a private phone number.
  • Special Batman related IMAX events in 5 major cities with limited seating capacity at the end of the week
  • An email sent from another in-game website indicates something will be happening in the new year

The game’s not over, folks!

This cake event may go down as many people’s first special, memorable ARG event – a ‘wow’ moment. Comments in forums, such as liederhaus‘s experience from, describe the fun many people had:

“I talked one of the Philadelphia cakes through the process. Randomly called a flower shop across the street from (the bakery) and the woman thought I was from (Warner Brothers). “She loves Christian Bale” I told her that he was a very cool guy. She ran across the street picked up the cake and followed the directions. I have tried it a couple of other places and got there a bit late. (…) This whole viral thing really works. There are at least seven groups of people that didn’t know about the movie and would probably never see it that are now aware of the film. Doesn’t seem like a lot but if you Ponzi Pyramid the thing those seven groups are going to tell their friends about this weird phone call and that they were told to go across the street, etc. etc.”

SpineyNorman describes a kick-yourself moment: After purchasing the cake he and his friends didn’t check the cake thoroughly enough, and gave it away to strangers, who had no clue about the events or the cellphone hidden snugly inside its tasty layers.

The task wasn’t without its nightmares though – many bakeries weren’t prepared for the onslaught of people calling and asking them about “Robin Banks”, and some locations endured a constant stream of people entering and asking for the cake. In most cases, these bakeries may not have got anything out of the event. Perhaps anyone living near the stores should go and purchase a cake as a thank you for putting up with the players’ hijinks!

Also, as this campaign rolls on, a pattern is emerging where an event with emotional highs also elicits a negative backlash from a vocal minority of players. That trend continued with this latest event, as some players were unimpressed with the final payoff of the poster image. Regardless of how people felt about the event in general, it seemed to pay off from a marketing perspective, as articles about the game have emerged on Hollywood Chicago, Comic Book Resources and MovieWeb.

At the end of the day, we realize that this trail set up “by the Joker” has lasted more than a month and included riddles, public tasks, mysteries, and oodles of websites to promote The Dark Knight. So far, this campaign has been an excellent example for how viral marketing and trans-media advertising can bring people together across long distances, as playing the game has caused players to cheer on other states, call friends, family, even local businesses and neighbors in the rush to complete tasks as quickly as possible. And it’s not over yet – TDK is scheduled for release more than six months from now, yet only a vague, but chilling teaser trailer has been released to date. What will await wondering eyes at the IMAX theatres? We shall see.

At least we can say for sure this cake wasn’t a lie.

Batman forum posts at
Batman discussion at
Batman: Dark Knight wiki
(photos thanks to fceeviper and batsean of Superherohype)


  1. Those poor Bakeries… It’s a fun idea that’s easy to backfire, but hopefully the bakeries do get a few extra sales to compensate for the crazy foot traffic. I remember a conversation I had with someone about just this sort of thing and how unprepared so many small businesses are for extra foot traffic, even if they appreciate the extra name/marketing boost they still hate you for making a few bad days amongst their staff.

  2. Excellent Portal reference, Mr. May. Oh, and good summary of ARG play as well 🙂

  3. an ARG with baked goods? awesome!

  4. Re: Max’s worries about the bakeries: I think they warned the bakeries up front what might happen. As soon as we got to the Boston cake, the lady running the store put up a sign in the door saying “The cake for Robin Banks has been picked up!”.

    It didn’t stop a few people from coming in anyway, but at least they didn’t get overrun. And I think that as soon as it became clear on the website that the different sites were being unlocked, people stopped trying to get there. It was pretty well thought through I think.

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