Technology

“Unethically manipulated”: backlash continues from controversial North Face ad campaign

Edward Pollitt

Edward Pollitt

Even after The North Face removed a controversial campaign in which it bragged about ‘gaming’ Wikipedia, many are still not happy with the outdoor apparel brand.

It was a failed attempt in garnering free product placement using Wikipedia pages of popular tourist destinations that saw The North Face land itself in some trouble.

The company replaced images on high-traffic Wikipedia pages of popular tourist destinations with images featuring its products in an effort to place its images at the top of Google searches.

What’s more, it made a video detailing its efforts and gloating the campaign had cost it “absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia”.

The North Face quickly backed down when it realised the mess it had made and removed the campaign, but the backlash has continued.

Updating Wikipedia pages with false or misleading information is nothing new.

In fact, it has become somewhat of a practical joke on the web – which is perhaps why The North Face thought the stunt would be well-received.

However, it seems the joke is on The North Face.

Social media has been quick to point out that Wikipedia is run by volunteers, meaning the people that had to edit and replace The North Face’s attempted product placement images were not being paid.

Wikimedia (parent company of Wikipedia) fellow Liam Wyatt had this to say:

Wyatt also publicly reached out to Patagonia – The North Face’s rival – to ask “would you be interested in sharing some photography of beautiful and remote places around the world, to be used on Wikipedia articles? We’d love to collaborate with groups that share our passion for knowledge about our planet.”

After stating The North Face had “unethically manipulated” Wikipedia with the “short-lived marketing stunt”, Wikimedia has called on companies to learn the existing best practices of properly engaging on Wikipedia.

Leo Burnett Tailor Made, the advertising agency responsible for the disastrous campaign, has issued its own statement on the matter.

“We’re always looking for creative ways to meet consumers where they are,” it said.

“We’ve since learned that this effort worked counter to Wikipedia’s community guidelines.”


This article originally appeared on Travel Weekly’s sister title, B&T.

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