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The North Face Wikipedia campaign

Wikipedia is mad at The North Face for ‘unethically’ manipulating pages

‘When The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry’

In beef that literally no one saw coming, The North Face has managed to incite the ire of Wikipedia for a series of “unethically manipulated” entries.

In a viral marketing campaign gone wrong, ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made worked with the brand to change images on Wikipedia pages to ones that featured items by the company. 

In a campaign called Top of Images, detailed in the video below, the agency boasts about how it “did what no one has done before … we switched the Wikipedia photos for ours”. So – you could search for images of a State Park, and find one featuring someone in a North Face jacket posing in front of said beautiful landmark. The aim, as a piece on industry site AdAge makes clear, was to “hack” pages and thus boost The North Face in Google search results – without paying for it.

Besides just being a fucking lame idea, it’s also in violation of Wikipedia’s terms of use. The stunt was working until The North Face started boasting about it – at which point, Wikipedia promptly removed all the images and wrote a damning response. “When The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry,” it read. “Adding content that is solely for commercial promotion goes directly against the policies, purpose and mission of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world.”

We’ve reached out to The North Face’s UK PR rep for comment and will update this story if we hear back. Leo Burnett’s London office did not pick up the phone.

Update – a rep for The North Face provided the following statement:

“We believe deeply in Wikipedia’s mission and integrity – and apologise for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we’ll strive to do better and commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on Wikipedia’s site policies.”