By Dan Light, Head of Interactive, Picture Production Company (PPC).
Universal Pictures release, ‘Untraceable’, stars Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane), an FBI agent caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a serial killer conducting violent and painful murders live on the internet.
The more people that log on and enter the ‘Untraceable’ website the quicker and more violently the victims die. The FBI agent puts her life in danger to find out the identity of the killer in a bid bring his killing spree to an end.
Universal Pictures wanted a campaign to promote the international release of ‘Untraceable’, which was released in cinemas throughout the UK on Friday 29 February 2008. They asked us to come up with some creative ideas to make the film’s release as memorable as possible.
After receiving the brief, we started to brainstorm ideas. We wanted to come up with a campaign that would provoke controversy and discussion as well as generate media coverage, so we settled on the concept of deploying a groundbreaking online marketing campaign, which would bring together the violence and voyeuristic themes of the film to life, within video blogging community Seesmic and social networking site Facebook.
Using a two-pronged campaign on Seesmic and Facebook allowed us to target a wider group of people and in two completely different ways.
With our ideas starting to take shape, we began to work on the detail.
The first part of our campaign started with Seesmic. As it’s an online blogging community, we decided that it would be a great target for an ‘alternate reality game’ (ARG). In order to bring our idea to life, we filmed a series of clips live by webcam. They were posted to the Seesmic website at regular intervals over a 48-hour period.
We created the character O’Reilly, a mysterious new community member whose identity was concealed by a variety of masks and disguises. He began contributing to the live webcam conversations unfolding along the community's public timeline.
His presence was initially designed to intrigue the community, stimulate conversation and create a buzz within Seesmic and across the internet. To intrigue the Seesmic community further, we also left clues that would gradually start to appear within the clips, revealing his connection with the film.
This was the first promotion of its kind within Seesmic, establishing a new frontier in interactive marketing.
The second part of the campaign involved Facebook. Being known for its groups and applications, we decided to create a fan page allowing people to become a fan of the film.
In line with the film’s storyline, the more people that joined the fan page, the more of a 90-second torture sequence from the film would be visible on the film’s Facebook homepage.
The fan page was accompanied by a Facebook-only banner campaign, warning visitors not to visit the page in question. The idea here was that if the site received over 100,000 visits before the film’s UK release, it would be updated to show the first ten minutes of the film.
The main challenge with a project like this is going into a community space and giving people what they want or what you think they want. You have to make sure that you have something they’ll find interesting and will want to respond to.
With this project, we managed to overcome this challenge as we received the response that we were looking for – people logging on to watch and becoming a ‘fan’ of the film.
The results were phenomenal. Our ‘alternate reality game’ (ARG) on Seesmic was brought to a premature end after one of the site’s moderators mistook the staged torture of a community member for the real thing and threatened to involve the police!
The Facebook, the page was removed on the basis that ‘pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed’.” This was definitely a great response and it got people in the industry as well as the online communities talking about it.
Following the removal of both campaigns, we received media coverage online around the world. In the UK, we saw online coverage on the Guardian Unlimited, Yahoo, IndieLONDON, UK Film and Television News and MediaWatch sites in the UK, as well as some of the key film publications. In the US, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, MovieWeb and Film.com covered the story as well as The Northern Daily News in Canada.
Universal Pictures thought the campaign was a great success and as planned, it was highly provocative and fuelled ongoing conversations across various channels around some thought-provoking issues at the heart of the film.
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