July 20, 2012 11:21 am

Q & A: The impact of the Colorado shootings on the marketing of Batman


TORONTO – A horrific shooting at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie had some witnesses thinking it was part of the film’s marketing campaign.

A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the audience for The Dark Knight Rises, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 at the Colorado theatre, authorities said. Warner Bros. has since cancelled the Paris premiere as well as press interviews that had been scheduled in France.

Some people at the scene said they thought the shooting was part of the show for the hotly anticipated film. But the silhouette of a person in smoke at the front of the theatre, pointing a gun at the crowd, was no part of any publicity stunt.

Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York public relations firm 5WPR, talked to Globalnews.ca about what kind of impact this tragic event will have on the Batman franchise and how the publicity team should handle such a delicate situation.

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Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Global News: What impact will this incident have on the Dark Knight franchise?
Ronn Torossian: I think that while it’s a terrible tragedy, unfortunately violence is a part of life in the world today. I think the Batman franchise is one that will not be affected in the long-term by this tragedy. I think that two years from now, people will remember a shooting; they will not necessarily remember the shooting at a Batman movie.

GN:Do you think it will be ‘business as usual’ for the public relations team?
RT: It cannot be business as usual today. It cannot be business as usual tomorrow. Will it be business as usual very short term? Yes. Over the course of a week or two? Yes. Millions have been invested in this, and obviously Batman didn’t do anything wrong. Warner Brothers didn’t do anything wrong. I think in the very near-term you will see a return to marketing as business as usual.

GN:Are there things they should not do i.e. is there a bad way to handle this?
RT: So they did the right thing by sending their condolences. I think that this is not something that will be recalled of as a shooting at a Batman movie. I think it will be thought of as a shooting in Denver. And again, unfortunately, that’s what life in the world is about today. It has nothing to do with the Batman franchise, obviously. There’s been plenty of violence in many different places and it’s not associated with those places necessarily. I do not believe you will see this affect the Batman movie or the Batman franchise.

GN:The shooter was wearing a gas mask that some say bears similarity to The Dark Knight Rises villain, Bane. Do you think that means the incident does have something to do with the Batman franchise?
RT: No. Again this is a sick person. I’m not a psychologist, but from a marketing standpoint, from somebody who builds brands for a living, the Batman franchise is one that is clearly established…It’s a terrible thing, but it’s not necessarily that it has something to do with Batman.

GN: If you were the PR firm handling it, how would you handle it?
RT: If I was today in charge of marketing for this movie I would place a few day moratorium. I would follow the story, and I certainly wouldn’t do any advertising at least until mid next week. I would tone down any violence in advertising that exists. I would make sure that in any interviews that my talent is doing over the next few days, they start the interview by saying ‘we have condolences for the victims.’ They have to make sure that message is getting out there.

GN: Anything else you think is important to note?
RT: I think that people worldwide today realize that tragedies like this are unfortunately a fact of life. You’re still going to see movie theatres packed, you’ll still see people going out. Unfortunately there’s how many shootings on a college campus every year? The families remember, but people don’t remember long-term, and the same goes for this.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of the Top 25 PR firm 5WPR. His company has represented celebrities including Sean Combs, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, Morgan Freeman and brands including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.


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