In a campaign with advertising agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, The North Face invented a plan to get its products to the top of Google Images by replacing Wikipedia photos with their own product placement photos.
In the promotional video, the company notes how all trips start with a first Google search, and often the first image displayed is from a Wikipedia article about the destination. The company took advantage of this fact by trekking to popular tourist destinations such as Guarita State Park in Brazil and Huayna Picchu in Peru to take a prominent photo of its products. It then exchanged the original Wikipedia photo for its own or, in some cases, a Photoshop of a North Face product in an existing photo.
The video brags about how North Face has cleverly hacked the results to get its products at the top of Google search results, "pay absolutely nothing just by working with Wikipedia." Only it was not cooperation at all; it was a violation of Wikipedia's terms of service for paid advocacy. Once the campaign is hit Ad Age, Wikipedia volunteer editors deleted all product shots almost immediately and reported the user accounts for breaching the terms.
"The biggest obstacle of the campaign was to update the photos without attracting the attention of Wikipedia moderators." Volunteers quickly found all 12 photos and deleted them, or kept them entertaining, but kept the North Face logo. pic.twitter.com/sRKljYI4GK
– Mike Dickison (@adzebill) 28 May 2019
Ad Age suggests that based on the original statement by Leo Burnett Tailor Made, the company may have expected the negative reaction of the public to its exploitation campaign. Perhaps this article itself falls into the trap of & # 39; all publicity is good publicity & # 39; that North Face expected, but it is not really clear how taking advantage of an educational platform for free advertising is nothing more than painting your own brand as greedy and insincere.