North Face has recently come under fire for manipulating Wikipedia images so that North Face products would be displayed more prominently in Google’s search results.
How? Well, North Face’s ad agency strategically placed images of models wearing North Face clothing and accessories on Wikipedia pages about remote locations.
Through an Ad Age post, North Face said that it had relied on the fact that many people search Google prior to going on a trip or trek and most of the popular images they may view are from Wikipedia pages.
The models were taken to 15 locations, including: California’s Cabo peninsula, Brazil’s Guarita State Park, Scotland’s Cuillin mountains and Mampotuba lighthouse.
The ploy was certainly clever, as the firm later boasted that the stunt boosted SEO rankings while costing the company virtually nothing.
However, when discovered, the negative backlash certainly cost the company a great deal of credibility — something that costs much more than they thought.
When the Wikimedia Foundation — the company which oversees the online encyclopedia — found out what had happened, they said North Face’s campaign had unethically manipulated Wikipedia.
As the Wikimedia Foundation noted, “What they did was akin to defacing public property. 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.”
Their harsh criticism of North Face’s advertising scheme led to North Face apologizing for their actions.
As North Face said: “We believe deeply in Wikipedia’s mission and apologise for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. 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.”