Technology

The North Face ‘hacks’ Wikipedia in controversial ad campaign featuring popular destinations

Edward Pollitt

Edward Pollitt

Outdoor apparel brand The North Face has been forced to apologise for a campaign in which it bragged about manipulating Wikipedia to gain free advertising.

Looking for some high-traffic, free advertising, The North Face and creative agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made devised a plan to remove existing images on popular Wikipedia pages of destinations and replace them with images that promoted its range of products.

In the video uploaded as part of the campaign, The North Face asks (via Google search), “How can a brand be the first on Google without paying anything for it?” before gloating about its success.

It claims the campaign helped it reach “the top of the world’s largest search engine, paying absolutely nothing”.

Sure enough, Wikipedia wasn’t happy with the stunt, sending out the following tweet:

It also added: “When companies like The North Face take advantage of the trust you have in Wikipedia just to sell you clothes, you should be angry.

“Their actions have gone directly against the spirit, purpose, and policies of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world.”

After being called out, The North Face soon backed down, confirming the campaign had been ended:

Despite the goodwill on social media, The North Face Brazil CEO Fabricio Luzzi remained indignant, telling Ad Age any publicity is good publicity.

“Our mission is to expand our frontiers so that our consumers can overcome their limits,” he said in a statement.

“With the ‘Top of Images’ project, we achieved our positioning and placed our products in a fully contextualised manner as items that go hand in hand with these destinations.”


This article originally appeared on Travel Weekly‘s sister title, B&T.

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