The North Face is Sorry for Hacking Wikipedia Photos to Promote Brand

The North Face Wikipedia campaign

The North Face Wikipedia campaign

Swapping an image with someone wearing a jacket from The North Face for one that just showed the travel destination would ensure the brand stayed top of mind for those specific searches.

The North Face, Leo Burnett, and Ad Age - which originally labeled the campaign an "editor's pick" - were so hungry for novel native advertising that none recognized the entire premise was a flagrant violation of Wikipedia's common-sense branding policies.

The North Face and ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made deliberately replaced images on Wikipedia with its own branded photos to reach the top of Google search results.

"Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation did not collaborate on this stunt, as The North Face falsely claims", the statement read.

In the interview, The North Face's former vice president of marketing said, "More than ever, consumers see when you're just trying to talk at them, so you have to continue to be as honest as possible so that the dialogue is genuine, or you're just not going to break through". 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".

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"We hacked the results to reach one of the most hard places", claims a recent video created by Leo Burnett and presented by The North Face.

"Adding content that is exclusively for commercial promotion goes directly against the policies, objective and mission of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world", the organization said.

The North Face's campaign appears to have backfired, with some customers saying on social media that they would stop buying the brand's products. "Their stated mission, "unchanged since 1966", is to "support the preservation of the outdoors" - a public good held in trust for all of us". The user accounts behind the edits have been reported for breaching the Terms of User for undisclosed paid advocacy. For shame @TheNorthFace. "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", the company said in a tweet.

The North Face issued an apology on Twitter Wednesday, stating, "We believe deeply in@Wikipedia's mission and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles".

Volunteers on Wikipedia subsequently took down the photographs from the articles in which they were added or cropped out The North Face logo.

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