Tom Hardy as Bane from the forthcoming Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s third installment of his take on the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises, won’t be released until July 20, 2012 but that hasn’t stopped Warner Bros. from keeping the hype machine going.

This weekend the principal villain Bane, played by Tom Hardy and seen above, was revealed through a viral campaign that began with some chanting on the official website for The Dark Knight Rises.

While the website was completely devoid of any graphics, the chanting was revealed to have a secret message.

SuperHeroHype Forums member “Riskproduction” decoded the chanting using an audio program that revealed the Twitter hashtag “#thefirerises” in the spectrum analysis. Through tweeting of the hashtag, the @TheFireRises Twitter account would reveal a link to the image of new Batman villain Bane.

It is quite amazing that embedding the audio file with the Twitter hashtag was decoded so quickly. You almost expect a detective of Batman’s quality would be needed to decode such a message.

The marketing team behind the release made a smart decision in limiting the website to just the audio file. In doing so, the audience of Batman fans could focus on just that piece of media to see if anything was hidden within it.

As a fan I was extremely interested in the release and the technology behind making it happen. The beauty of the Internet is that a group of Batman fans can crowdsource the solution to such viral campaigns and reveals. Would this have been possible 15 years ago or in traditional media?

Looking at the HTML source for the site it appears Warner Bros. used the photo mosaic tools from HashTagArt to build the site. Through each Tweet of the hashtag #TheFireRises the mosaic would build until Tom Hardy’s character of Bane was revealed. It doesn’t appear to be an expensive option to pull off the reveal, which shows that social media and viral campaigns can be cost effective and still create an impact. (Although it helps to have a franchise like Batman to create awareness and interest)

Back in May of 2007 Warner Bros. and 42 Entertainment also used the viral capacity of the Internet to release the first images of Heath Ledger as the Joker, driving the majority of traffic to the website for Why So Serious.

What are your thoughts on the viral campaign for The Dark Knight Rises and the bootstrapped reveal of Batman’s new villain Bane?