Torture scene too much for site to stomach

A provocative online marketing campaign for Universal’s cyber crime thriller “Untraceable,” which offers bloodthirsty online voyeurs a sneak peak of a gruesome torture scene from the pic, has been pulled by social networking site Facebook.

Universal worked with marketing outfit Picture Production Co. to create the controversial online campaign for the international launch of helmer Gregory Hoblit’s Diane Lane starrer.

Taking its lead from the pic’s chilling storyline, in which a serial killer creates an untraceable website where he commits violent murders live on the net, a “Kill With Me” page was posted on Facebook. The more fans the Facebook page received, the more of the film’s torture sequence was made available to view for free.

But Facebook bans “pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene” and removed it before the whole scene was revealed.

Facebook is not the only online player objecting to “Untraceable” promotional stunts. Video blogging community Seesmic has yanked an alternative reality game produced by Universal.

A new Seesmic user was added who initially interacted normally with members. But when the character reappeared, seemingly having been abducted and now being tortured, Seesmic mistook it for real-life torture and kicked the lurker out of the community.

Dan Light, PPC head of interactive, welcomes the controversy caused by the Facebook ban but rejects suggestions that the hard-hitting campaign sought trouble.

“I am surprised and disappointed that Facebook has taken this action,” he said. “These sorts of social media campaigns are the only way to be competitive at the moment.

“PPC did a lot of work on ‘300’ last year and that experience confirmed to us that it is no longer enough to get on your soap box and tell potential audiences that your movie is great. The key is to get people interested and talking about your movie.”

“Untraceable” goes out this weekend in the U.K. on 280 locations. Proponents and detractors of these types of innovative online marketing techniques will be watching pic’s B.O. closely.

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