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Wikipedia vs The North Face

The brand has replaced the photos on Wikipedia with its own product placement photos

Wikipedia vs The North Face The brand has replaced the photos on Wikipedia with its own product placement photos

Quite unexpectly the clash that's going down in these hours is the one between The North Face and Wikipedia. The sportswear brand has in fact voluntarily violated the terms of service of the site to increase its popularity.

A few days ago The North Face, in collaboration with the Brazilian branch of the advertising agency Leo Burnett, made an advertising video boasting that it had done "what no one had ever done before", that's to say replacing images of Wikipedia articles with others that contained products with the North Face logo. More specifically, the brand has swapped 12 photos, including those of the Guarita National Park and the Cape Peninsula, both in Brazil, with its own product placement shots. The action was furthermore highlighted by boasting the brand's ability to be able to advertise themselves without paying anything, but “just by collaborating with Wikipedia”. The aim of the company was obviously to bring their products at the top of Google's search.

As if this wasn't not enough, a few days ago, in an article appeared on the marketing and advertising site AdAge, a manager of the Leo Burnett agency stated that the biggest obstacle to the success of the campaign was being able to upload photos without attracting the attention of the moderators of Wikipedia. So if until that moment the "stunt" of The North Face had gone quite unnoticed, after the interview everyone knew about it, including the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that deals with the online encyclopedia, which has removed the 12 photos and reported the profiles of users who had uploaded them.

In addition to this Wikipedia has stated in a press release that placing advertising in an article explicitly violates the terms of service of the site:

“When The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry. 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.”

Shortly afterwards, the brand's apology reply also arrived:

“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.”

Whatever you think of The North Face's advertising move, the company has, at least in part, achieved its goal by catalysing attention to itself.