North Face Caught Gaming Wikipedia After They Bragged About It

North Face Caught Gaming Wikipedia After They Bragged About It

North Face demonstrated some serious hubris recently when they hired an ad agency to questionably get their gear all over the front page of Google search results, then shared a video outlining how they did it.

You may or may not know that when you see images next to popular search results, they are often being pulled directly from Wikipedia's page on the subject. North Face hired ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made to run a campaign that involved flying models to popular tourist locations and staging them in breathtaking photos wearing North Face clothes.

After gathering the images, the agency worked on quietly inserting the staged photos onto the chosen adventure destinations' Wikipedia pages without inviting the suspicion of the very active moderators. It appears that even though they knew they should be sneaky while they performed the calculated, brand-focused switch, they were so proud after that they shared their scheme with the world.

Unfortunately for both North Face and the agency responsible for the gaming the search results, the public and Wikipedia were not so impressed. The agency had originally released their video under the guise that it was some sort of collaboration with Wikipedia, which was quickly debunked. In fact, once Wikipedia volunteers were made aware, every shadily added image was either removed or edited so the company's logo would no longer be in view.

One of the more amusing parts of the story to me is the already live section on North Face's own Wikipedia page, appropriately called "Abuse of Wikipedia in advertising" that covers the events and backlash.

What do you think? Was this essentially cheating to get ahead?

Lead image by Samuel Clara.

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23 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

Real quick...you don't get caught AFTER admitting you did something. Like, criminals don't get "caught" after they confess. I know you're looking for that scandalous headline, but, North Face Brags About Manipulating Wikipedia for Google Placement, does your scandal job while still remaining truthful and correct. Your welcome.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

That is exactly the irony I was going for. Not scandalous, just a little out of order like you say.

Simon Patterson's picture

Perhaps the more accurate headline would be "North Face gets free publicity from photography website by gaming Wikipedia and bragging about it"

Jeff Walsh's picture

Then, North Face "Caught" Gaming Wikipedia After They Bragged About It. There's nothing there to imply you're going for irony.

Super unethical, jail time (or threats) and large fines are in order.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Are you mentally ill? They were unethical...they didn't break laws and murder people. Holy shit, you might be insane.

Eric Grapher's picture

Without a doubt one of the most egregious calls for the abuse of government power. Why I would ask the Feds to snatch you and dump you into a prison cell for wanting such an abuse to take place ;)

Studio 403's picture

Sort of think North Face sold out its brand and quality several years ago. This post confirms their desperation. Sad

Way more than several years. I worked at a gear shop coming up on 20 years ago and even then, the brands they were competing with (Arc'Teryx, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, OR) were all far superior when comparing the products that were priced similarly. I always just assumed that any time you saw an Everest or K2 expedition wearing North Face gear it was because they got it for free. I probably wouldn't consider their stuff terrible if it was at least half the price and competing against more casual brands, but I can't say I've taken them seriously since the 90's.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I think it's hilarious. No one trusts Wikipedia 100% anyway (or shouldn't) but Wikipedia holds itself up to be the keeper of knowledge. Glad they got knocked down a peg and the public was reminded how easy it is to manipulate Wikipedia and thus, why it shouldn't be the sole source of ones information.

Wikipedia isn't a source of information, it's a collage of sources. It's a marvelous tool to digest large volumes of sources presented in an intelligent fashion but one still needs to check the source cited and be wary if there are none (rare).

Rob Mitchell's picture

Once a serious equipment brand for mountaineering. Now just another fashion thing playing the fashion thing games.
How the mighty have fallen.

The fall was a good 20 years ago... everything since then has just been an example of marketing over quality. I'd be surprised if anybody was *actually* surprised about this.

Ooh that comment reminds me of skull candy headphones. Hot garbage pushed by excelletn marketing. Kinda like Beats but beats is stupid expensive for junk.

"What do you think? Was this essentially cheating to get ahead?"
Really?? You have to ask??

Seems like Leo Burnett got an intern who knows basics of SEO.

user-206807's picture

Douglas Tompkins, the North Face founder died of hypothermia.
Terrible irony of fate…
What worse publicity could there be for this brand?

Do people really think that the people that went to Wikipedia and saw those photos even zoomed in enough to see the North Face logo? I think it was all a stunt, and the press coverage is more advertising than the Wikipedia thing was.

When I watch the video, it comes across to me like a grey-hat [huh?!?] hacker bragging, than a corporate promoter making a point. I just cannot figure out the purpose of the brag, (hence the colour of his hat).

OTOH, my point of view may be skewed because I saw the article first, and the video second.

greg tennyson's picture

Abuse? I dont think so.

If Wikipedia is going to tout itself as a pillar of truth they should have protocols in place to prevent things like this. An advert agency used the tools available to get their client exposure, thats all that happened.

Michael Holst's picture

Their agency was acting in their own best interest and not that of their client. This will ultimately have a negative effect for TNF and the agency gets to say they thought up this great stunt. Google and other search engines will most likely throttle SEO performance for TNF which is the opposite of what the goal was here.

Eric Grapher's picture

idk about the rest of you, but my North Face coat keeps me dry and warm in the worst of conditions. Please, if you love your mother and kids, wear North Face on your next expedition or outing.