Inside the outdoor industry

North Face criticised for Wikipedia meddling

Placement of photos tantamount to "digital vandalism"

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The North Face has been accused of surreptitiously inserting its products into Wikipedia articles about Brazilian mountains.

According to reports, in April, the ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, filled Wikipedia entries of Brazilian landmarks with professional shots featuring the brand, with the intention of causing Google to display the same images in the top few search results.

The photos uploaded by the agency prominently featured models wearing North Face gear in the foreground of the shot.

“Our mission is to expand our frontiers so that our consumers can overcome their limits,” North Face Brazil’s CEO said in a statement. “With the ‘Top of Images’ project, we achieved our positioning and placed our products in a fully contextualised manner as items that go hand in hand with these destinations.”

But the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia, criticised the firm for its actions. “What they did was akin to defacing public property,” the foundation said, “which is a surprising direction from The North Face. Their stated mission, ‘unchanged since 1966’, is to ‘support the preservation of the outdoors’ — a public good held in trust for all of us.”

“When The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry. 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.”

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