News & Opinion | May 31, 2019 10:07 am

North Face Hacked Wikipedia for Promotion. Wikipedia Isn’t Impressed.

The brand has since issued an apology after Wikipedia slammed the misguided ad campaign

The North Face uploaded photos of their own products to Wikipedia for "free advertising."
The North Face uploaded photos of their own products to Wikipedia for "free advertising."
Zoe Deal/Unsplash

The North Face is pretty proud of itself for scamming you with their latest ad campaign. So proud, in fact, that the brand intentionally ratted itself out online.

In a video ad reported by Ad Age earlier this week, the North Face explained how it manipulated Wikipedia for free advertising by taking photos of their products at famous destinations and uploading those photos to the corresponding Wikipedia pages for those locations. Google tends to favor images from Wikipedia, meaning the North Face’s uploads would appear prominently in Google searches.

“We hacked the results to reach one of the most difficult places: the top of the world’s largest search engine,” the brand said in the video, adding that the innovative campaign “did what no one has done before” and cost them “absolutely nothing.”

While the North Face didn’t shy away from tooting its own horn, not everyone was impressed — particularly Wikipedia.

On Wednesday, the website and its non-profit host, the Wikimedia Foundation, denied any collaboration with the North Face and slammed the brand for its unethical manipulation of the site.

In a Twitter thread, Wikipedia went on to compare the North Face’s ad campaign to “defacing public property,” calling the stunt “a surprising direction” for the brand and a departure from the brand’s own  mission as well as a direct violation of Wikipedia’s.

“When companies like The North Face take advantage of the trust you have in Wikipedia just to sell you clothes, you should be angry,” Wikipedia wrote in the thread’s final tweet. “Their actions have gone directly against the spirit, purpose, and policies of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world.”

The North Face has since apologized for the stunt, taking to Twitter on Wednesday night.

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

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