The gist of it is this: Sometime around early August, relatively authentic-looking "missing" posters began appearing around LA asking for help in finding an Agora Hills 22-year-old female, last seen on June 2. "Where is Amy Pressman?" the posters ask, above a photo of the "victim" and a link to the "family's" MySpace page.
Amy, of course, has her own MySpace page, full of ominous poetry and entries about the unsavory characters met during her family's summer road trip. If this were real, it would be scary stuff, covered by evening news broadcasts across the nation.
Oddly, it wasn't. Spurred by that (and perhaps Amy's miserable verse), a handful of online detectives traced the drama back to Fourth Floor Productions, a Sherman Oaks, CA-based marketing firm. Though Fourth Floor has yet to claim responsibility for any of this, its Web site tells a different story:
The Young Guns of Hollywood are in town and stirring up some trouble. Looking to make the mark in the ever-competitive film industry. This group is comprised of some seriously talented people; creating not just future works of art, but a buzz they seem to call, Controversial Marketing.
Knowing that great films could never be seen without great advertising, Fourth Floor Productions strive to create both New and Fresh media that will be talked about for years.
Talked about, yes: on sites including RumorsDaily and Church of the Customer, bloggers are calling the marketing efforts "creepy" and "sleazy." And Movie Marketing Madness calls using a missing child to build buzz an "offensive use of social media."
Right here, too, we feed into the discourse without knowing what movie it is, whether it will be in theaters or online. What we do know is, someone is leveraging what appears to be a young woman's abduction in the name of viral marketing. And many people have found this offensive.
Some people, however, won't be offended, and those may be this campaign's target audience. So should there be socially observed limits on guerilla/new media creativity? If so, how much is too much?