North Face the global outdoor clothing brand devised and executed with the help of Leo Burnett Tailor Made agency a image manipulation on Wikipedia.
The aim was to get the North Face brand in photos. A video from the agency has the quotes: “did what no one has done before…we switched the Wikipedia photos for ours…paid absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia.”
Exploiting a system set out for good intentions
That statement isn’t exactly a bold one in its effects. The method of editing Wikipedia to switch out photos is manipulative, Wikipedia is a free resource and relies on its volunteers editors to educate and inform through the articles.
To abuse the system to essentially show ads and bolster your brand on the Wikipedia platform is a low blow. North Face is a multinational clothing giant and all they could do was edit articles on free to use, informative platform.
Using the word “collaborating” is a massive misuse. There was no collaboration or agreement on both parties to work together. Leo Burnett Tailor Made with North Faces approval exploited the system for commercial gain.
A Wikimediafoundation article on this issue hits it fairly and squarely. Not impressed and disappointed is the tone and rightly so. This plot was an attack on the good Wikipedia does.
With advertising and marketing there are ethics, yes this stunt may have been smart with free advertising and exposure for your brand on a global reach without paying a cent. However editing Wikipedia in this way is against the terms and conditions, its immoral and a sign of disrespect to what Wikipedia is.
Just because you can do something, such as edit a Wikipedia article doesn’t mean you have free rights for commercialism and to plaster an ad.
According to @adzebill there were 12 photos in total, most removed others cropped.
"The biggest obstacle of the campaign was to update the photos without attracting attention of Wikipedia moderators." Volunteers quickly found and took down all 12 photos, or, amusingly, let them stay but cropped out the North Face logo. pic.twitter.com/sRKljYI4GK
— Mike Dickison (@adzebill) May 28, 2019