How WB’s “Batman 1989” Gimmicks Changed Movie Marketing Forever


Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman was a turning point not only for Batman’s intellectual property, but also for the promotion of blockbusters. “Batman” is a deservedly cult superhero movie in itself, but the story and consequences of its aggressive advertising campaign, nicknamed “Batmania”, are closely related to the film itself. Forever changed methods of promoting films have made Batman the largest DC Comics property for Warner Bros. with an influence that is felt even in modern Marvel properties like the MCU franchise. Batman’s gigantic marketing campaign was the result of the transformation of the American communications industry in the 1980s and the subsequent merger that allowed WB to promote its upcoming film on an unprecedented scale, meaning that Batman succeeded as a film and as a brand and formed a modern blockbuster. the film, regardless of the genre.

Batman was one of DC Comics’ most popular intellectual property objects, and the Dark Knight and his iconic cast of minor characters and villains were second only to Superman, whose popularity and cultural significance surpassed his comic book origins. Batman’s massive popularity was bolstered by a 1960s TV show starring Adam West as the titular Batman. Although the series was successful, lasted three seasons and included a theatrical film, it led to a general perception of Batman myths as mannered, despite its dark stories about surreal murders and organized crime. The era of Neil Adams and Danny O’Neill in Batman comics in the 1970s made the character even darker, as in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, but despite these tonal changes, Batman was still largely defined by his more lighthearted adaptation of the 60s. .

Realizing that the image of the Caped Crusader needed to be changed, Warner Bros worked hard to turn Batman into a dark and serious property, drawing inspiration from the “Killer Joke” and the first year of Batman’s publications (before the appearance of Robin). With new resources at its disposal, WB placed the iconic yellow oval Batman logo in as many places as possible, combined its marketing with the film itself and made it inevitable to inform the public about the film. The result was one of the biggest successes of the WB in the field of superheroes, which influenced all subsequent Batman films (regardless of continuity), created the DC animated universe and influenced the marketing strategies of major event films studios, including the Marvel cinematic universe.

“Batmania” was a cultural phenomenon

In the months leading up to Batman’s release, his iconic black and yellow symbol was plastered everywhere, with Batman posters on billboards, bus stops and, of course, in almost every conceivable form of merchandise. In addition to many toys and T-shirts, the Batman logo has found its use in bookstores (thanks to the novelization of the film), in video games on various platforms, and even in breakfast cereals. Batman’s obsession with merchandising became known as “Batmania,” and it worked successfully. In 1989, it was impossible to ignore Batman, even for those who were not interested in superhero comics and their film adaptations, and the ubiquitous presence of the Batman logo made the public’s interest in the film rapid. Thus, even if the film itself was not a success, it could only be compensated by income from the sale of goods. Batman’s marketing was similar to the original Star Wars trilogy, although Batman was much more aggressive due to several key factors.

How WB Sold Batman 1989

The deregulation of the media in the 1980s unfortunately eliminated safeguards against monopolies, but also led to the merger of Warner Bros and Time and the creation of Time-Warner. In 1989, Time-Warner used every possible means to advertise the upcoming Batman movie, from magazines to television stations, which only further contributed to the widespread public awareness of the film. Batman’s unprecedented marketing even leaked into the film itself: the studio demanded that Batman’s Batmobile not be damaged or destroyed, and forced the Prince’s soundtrack to be shown throughout the film. However, Batman’s marketing style had its drawbacks, as shown by his sequel Batman Returns.

Hoping to repeat the success of “Batman” in 1989, WB not only repeated their aggressive advertising campaign, but also convinced Tim Burton to return, giving him much more creative freedom. The darker, crueler and sexier story and dialogues of “The Return” caused a storm of indignation among concerned parents who believed that the film would remain suitable for younger viewers.