back to article Egg on North Face: Wikipedia furious after glamp-wear giant swaps article pics for sneaky ad shots – and even brags about it in a video

The North Face tried to sneakily replace images on Wikipedia pages with shots of models wearing the outdoor-clothing biz's clobber in an attempt to skyrocket to the top of Google Images. It was part of an ad campaign that The North Face figured out with the Brazilian branch of international admen Leo Burnett Tailor Made. They …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The ad agency even bragged about it."

    If you pull a stunt like that the only way to get away with it is to keep quiet. An ad agency is about the least likely body to achieve that. Good to see they receive sufficient opprobrium to spill over onto their client. I wonder if their other clients will notice. Who was it again? Leo Burnett Tailor Made.

    I wonder if Leo Burnett Tailor Made will get themselves onto first page on Google with this report.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Wait a minute - are you telling me your review of Leo Burnett Tailor Made? I'd be very disappointed to hear you didn't like the product placement of Leo Burnett Tailor Made on Wikipedia. I hope that other clients of Leo Burnett Tailor Made can share opinions here, free and online. Presumably when planning advertising and marketing campaigns with Leo Burnett Tailor Made, international and regional clients will be interested in how Leo Burnett Tailor Made's previous campaigns (such as that for The North Face on Wikipedia) have been received.

      1. Steve Button

        No such thing as bad publicity.

        And the fact that you are talking about it, and this story is being reported in the tech press means they got what they really wanted. Leo Burnett Tailor Made are aware of this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

          Are we talking about the same Leo Burnett Tailor Made that are headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil, whose creative brilliance and international experience combine with an innovative operational model that is 100% dedicated to understanding each client’s business? That Leo Burnett Tailor Made?

          I understand they are a wholly owned subsidiary of Publicis Groupe S.A., a multinational ad agency with over 81 years’ experience that is headquartered in Chicago. Amazingly, it has 96 offices in 85 countries with over 9,000 employees. Present in Brazil for 41 years, they number more than 400 in two offices (São Paulo and Brasília) and are among the three most awarded creative networks in the world, according to the Gunn Report.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

            I'd never actually heard of Brazillian-based ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made until this article; what a shame as they seem a fine bunch of chaps. I wonder if there's a way their internet profile could be raised?

            1. Mr Dogshit

              Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

              A bloke in the pub told me ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made are a bunch of arseholes.

              1. Oh Matron!

                Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

                There's a guy down works down the Chip Shop swears he's Leo Burnett Tailor Made....

                1. StevieD

                  Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

                  but he's a liar and I'm not sure about you.

                2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

                  Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

                  You'll always find me (i.e. the real Leo Burnett Tailor Made) in the kitchen at parties.

          2. John R. Macdonald

            Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

            Groupe Publicis has its headquarters in Paris, on the Champs-Elysées and has 80,000 employees not 9,000, throughout the world (100+ countries).

        2. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

          I believe the actual quote is “Any kind of publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right.”. It's usually attributed to P.T.Barnum

          Who were those guys again? "Loe Bruntet Taylor Maid", right?

        3. Crisp Silver badge

          Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

          Tell that to Gerald Ratner.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

            Hmmm, I thought this was quite a clever "hack" actually (in the sense of an elegant and slightly sneaky technical trick), but I agree that it is against the spirit of Wikipedia.

            In the end, it seems that everyone wins: Wikipedia gets some nice new, and now carefully cropped, photos, and the clothing company and the ad agency get a bit of publicity.

            But I'm not sure that we should encourage any repeat of this activity, however, sorry, guys.

      2. VulcanV5

        Advertised by morons. Bought by idiots.

        Haven't a clue what your wait-a-minute question is intended to mean. As for Leo Burnett Tailor Made, an agency so desperate that it has to pump up its own title and so vacuous as to waste time and money on, er, out-witting Wikipedia isn't one that any self-respecting major client would go near. The stunt it pulled in this instance was actually as nothing to the product placement achieved by the client itself with the BBC's so-called 'news reporters most of whom at one time or another have, by amazing coincidence, appeared on camera in North Face outdoor wear with logo prominently displayed. The cleverness there, as noted by prospective clients, was the company's recognition both of the existence of a mass audience's mass stupidity, and the fact that so many aspirational journalists would realise immediately that getting a degree in Media Studies would never be enough unless one bought the clothing appropriate to that kind of scholarship. As for Leo Burnett Etc Etc indicting itself, it's well known in the industry that if there's one thing more stupid than the client, it's the agency.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Advertised by morons. Bought by idiots.

          as to the beeb so called "reporters", I should correct your statement, while they do look pompous, preening in their outdoor, spotless gear with a plume of smoke in the hazy, dusty background, they actually display other brands / logos too. One other rather... regularly, for years.

          It's a long-standing beeb tradition of wasting money on "top kit" to pamper their "stars", on the other hand, they have to wear "something" and all brands put their logos across the chest. I would personally have them all taped over (very easy, I do it for work), but then I can't really complain about bbc standards, because I'm a criminal who fails to pay for his tv license.

    2. Fatman Silver badge

      RE: if Leo Burnett Tailor Made will get themselves onto first page on Google

      <quote>I wonder if Leo Burnett Tailor Made will get themselves onto first page on Google with this report.</quote>

      Only if the search terms are

      "asshole marketing company"

      Seriously, what do you expect from Marketing Weasels????

      1. not.known@this.address
        Coat

        Re: RE: if Leo Burnett Tailor Made will get themselves onto first page on Google

        "Seriously, what do you expect from Marketing Weasels????"

        Oi! Stop insulting weasels!

        We may not soar with eagles but at least we don't get sucked into jet engines!

        [Mine's the one with "Better SEAD than DEAD", "YGBSM!" and "Weasels Dark The Way" patches ;-) ]

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      If you keep quiet about it, you don't get any business from it which was the whole reason why they bragged about it.

      Remember, the ad agency isn't in the business of selling North Face stuff to us, they are in the business of selling adverts to North Face.

      1. jonathan keith

        Ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, in this case.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Remember, the ad agency isn't in the business of selling North Face stuff to us, they are in the business of selling adverts to North Face.

        Yes. Every time I see an agonizingly awful advertisement1 I think "what moron decided to buy this from the agency?!!". Then I reflect that selling advertisements to the client is what they do, after all. Presumably they're good enough at it to stay in business.

        1Today's shibboleth: the "Microsoft AI" ads that are running on some TV streaming service my wife has been watching in the other room. Every time I overhear one I am filled with rage. I suppose this means the campaign is a success, since I remember it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The North Deface

      Suitable Headline: The North Deface.

      Come on El Reg, you're slipping (must be the crappy shoes in the wet, on rock).

      And folks if you want a decent outdoor top, buy the Sheffield,UK - Buffalo Special Shirt 6.

      http://www.buffalosystems.co.uk/products/special-6-shirt/

  2. J. Cook Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Sadly, I expected this from a company that sued someone fresh out of high school for creating a parody clothing company called "The South Butt" for trademarrk dilution infringement and dilution.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      1. IainT

        I'd never seen that one, thanks for posting. I miss Lester.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        The South Butt

        It they had a logo, Wiki should use that in the pics as as replacement for the North Face logo.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        It's that word "The". Terribly confusing if you use it in a business name.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      "sufficiently similar to provoke consumer confusion"

      You understand a lot, when people can't understand the difference between a face and a butt... but I think in the adsmen and lawyers worlds that's common....

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: "sufficiently similar to provoke consumer confusion"

        No, that's arse and elbow.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      actually not a butt

      I'm pretty sure it was "The South Cole", and I think I saw a jacket or two with such logo. That said, it might have been post-legal-settlement and it didn't last too long anyway, WHAT A SHAME.

  3. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

    Actually, they didn't sue the guy, they simply asserted their copyright in order to protect it.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      And the way you "assert" a copyright (or patent or trademark) is to sue in court or to threaten to sue in court or, if you believe it is criminal, e.g. knock-offs, you report it to the police or appropriate enforcement body (customs if it is being imported and you want it stopped at point of entry) and they then charge you with a crime and bring you before a court.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      According to Wikipedia, they did sue him. Twice.

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        OK, my bad.

        1. The First Dave Silver badge

          Though we don't know if that is real, or was inserted by an Ad Agency...

          1. Vector
            Thumb Up

            ----------->

            That is all...

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      And copyrights and trademarks are entirely different things.

  4. W4YBO

    I've got several items of North Face gear...

    ...but I'll never buy another stitch. My life has literally depended on NF, but there are other good brands.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: I've got several items of North Face gear...

      I bought two items of NF gear about 15 years ago. They're still going, so they're good enough quality, but I never bought any more after discovering very soon afterwards that despite being "50% off", they were still more expensive than the prices Americans were paying for the same stuff.

    2. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: I've got several items of North Face gear...

      Rohan gear is expensive but bloody good. No need to buy North Farce.

    3. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: I've got several items of North Face gear...

      Slight over-reaction to boycott a brand because of something their ad-agency did relating to pictures on the Internet, no?

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: I've got several items of North Face gear...

        Why? They either okayed the ad. agency on the specific campaign, or were stupid enough to okay carte blanche for them. They are directly responsible for the campaign going live.

    4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: I've got several items of North Face gear...

      I always liked Columbia stuff as it lasts forever, but it's getting harder and harder to get in the UK. But then again, seeing as I'm rapidly turning into a middle aged grump - I suppose I'll be going for Decathlon stuff as according to the wife it represents good value for mon... no, no... I just can't do it. They can prize my Arcteryx skiing fleece from my cold dead hands!!!

  5. IceC0ld Silver badge

    "Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we’ll strive to do better and commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on Wikipedia’s site policies."

    translation :-

    BUSTED, ah well, there's always next time :o)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > BUSTED, ah well, there's always next time :o)

      Seems to have worked, as it's generated a bunch of further advertising about the company (pulling this stunt) which never would have happened otherwise.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, about that...

    "In fact, what they did was akin to defacing public property,"

    Except that it isn't. They defaced private property that is freely available under very liberal copyright terms. I know this is the "Internet" generation, raised on Napster and all, but that's not the same thing as "public property" by a long shot.

    1. Cxwf

      Re: Yeah, about that...

      I’m sorry, but how is that better? Yes it’s technically private property, but that doesn’t make it ACCEPTABLE to deface, does it?

      Or are you just objecting to Wikipedia using the term “Public Property” for itself at all? So long as they do a pretty good job of acting the part, I’m not going to hold that bit of hubris against them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: objecting to Wikipedia using the term “Public Property” for itself

        That's what I'm objecting to. The problem with public property that isn't actually public property is it only takes a second for it to change to private property.

        As such it's of much less value than things that are genuinely private or public as you can't rely on them to stay public and you can't expect them to behave as professionally as a private institution. It's the worst of both worlds.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: objecting to Wikipedia using the term “Public Property” for itself

          akin

          /əˈkɪn/

          adjective

          of similar character.

          They're not claiming that Wikipedia is public property, just that it's similar to public property.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: objecting to Wikipedia using the term “Public Property” for itself

          I'll split that hair again because nothing is "genuinely" public or private property. Companies can be nationalized; property can be seized by eminent domain. Tax breaks can be bestowed and land can be granted. This thing we call property is ephemeral. There is only power.

          If Wikipedia wants to call itself a public resource, then I have no objection. They play the part well enough for me.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: They play the part well enough for me.

            Well they don't for the dictionary.

            Wikipedia is not a public property it's Jimmy's yacht fund. The multiple pieces on these very pages explaining the disparity between the amount Wikipedia raise and spend should give you some fucking clue.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah, about that...

        "Or are you just objecting to Wikipedia using the term “Public Property” for itself at all?"

        Yes, that was the crux of my original objection - Wikipedia trying to make themselves out to be more than they actually are. Had they compared it to "flinging red paint on a fur coat", "keying a new Ferrari", or other acts of vandalism against private property, I would have had no objection.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      To play devil's advocate...

      They didn't exactly deface either, they submitted professional photographs relevant to the article which the wikipedians are happy to use once the logos are removed. Yes, the goal was pretty insidious, but I'm not sure vandalism is the right analogy.

      If they'd wanted positive press out of this, they could have made a big noise about having a project to create these pictures for wikipedia, without having to include their branding in the pictures themselves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: To play devil's advocate...

        They didn't exactly deface either, they submitted professional photographs relevant to the article

        Hmmmm....so by the same token, if you had some photos of really dodgy-looking people doing dodgy things while wearing NF clothing then you could upload them as content for NF's page on Wikipedia?

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: To play devil's advocate...

          Hi AC,

          Yes, I suppose you could, provided it mainly demonstrated the subject being described and complied with the rest of the wikipedia policies. Which I'm having difficulty believing it would...

      2. Graham Cobb

        Re: To play devil's advocate...

        they could have made a big noise about having a project to create these pictures for wikipedia, without having to include their branding in the pictures themselves.

        Indeed they could have. But they didn't.

        North Face are arseholes for this campaign. Let's hope it destroys their brand name so they, and others learn. They make good products, at vast prices -- they can now look to spending some of that money on either re-branding or an expensive campaign to rebuild trust in their brand with the Internet generation.

      3. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: To play devil's advocate...

        "they submitted professional photographs relevant to the article..."

        You've got something of a point there. If "they" (North Face/Obnoxious R'Us Tailor Made) had submitted classy photos with a tasteful -- "Image contributed by North Face Clothing under Creative Commons License" statement along a margin, would that be objectionable?

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: To play devil's advocate...

          Not sure! https://foundation.wikimedia.org/wiki/Terms_of_Use/en doesn't really mention (in a quick search) advertising or promotion specifically, and navigating the policies is a nightmare, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not#Wikipedia_is_not_a_soapbox_or_means_of_promotion might be closest, and though I don't think their approach explicitly violates any of this maybe explicitly adding the text would. Submissions should generally be CC-BY-SA, so the wikians would be free to strip out any such mark if they wanted (and you can understand why they might) so long as the metadata still contained the attribution.

          A wikipedia page I occasionally contributed to about a guitarist once had all references to their equipment removed by a drive-by editor as "promotional", so attitudes vary. (Re-introducing the material was utterly uncontroversial among the regular maintainers...)

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: To play devil's advocate...

            Correction:

            and though I don't think their approach explicitly violates any of this maybe explicitly adding the text would

            Re-reading the article, it sounds like the logos were super-imposed, rather than merely 'in' the photograph, which I'd guess puts them on par with the text addition from that perspective. (Though makes it less useful for others from a creative commons point of view, so a different image without be preferable anyway.)

      4. VulcanV5

        Re: To play devil's advocate...

        @ "If they'd wanted positive press out of this, they could have made a big noise about having a project to create these pictures for wikipedia, without having to include their branding in the pictures themselves."

        Unforuntaely, you're attributing to an advertising agency a level of intelligence it doesn't have.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: To play devil's advocate...

          ttributing to an advertising agency a level of intelligence it doesn't have

          Likewise morals and ethics. Both of which are utterly incompatible with the words "advertising agency".

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Bah, they're ad-people. They don't operate by the same rules or standards as regular people. Any more than drooling morons or psychopaths do.

    Fun Fact: The Demon Butler, aka "Call me Dave " began his literally meteoric career as a PR flunkey .

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Ad "people"

      I entirely agree.

      I spend a fair part of the 1990's supplying services to the Ad industry and I have never met a more mendacious bunch of people in my life.

      If I had a dollar for every time I have heard an Ad agency "person" say

      "...but we don't do that anymore..."

      I would have several dollars.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: I have never met a more mendacious bunch of people in my life.

        Never worked for the police then?

  8. Crisp Silver badge

    Why not send them a bill?

    Companies wont stop unscrupulous advertising practices until it impacts their shareholders.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unauthorised Advertising.

      Maybe WIki could add daily rates for unauthorised advertising into their contracts, just like banks have rates for unauthorised overdrafts. i.e. The bank won't allow you an overdraft but if you decide yourself to take one anyway, you'll pay through the nose for it.

      Seems the only way to stop this, having the chance of gettting caught.

      I hope The North Face made a suitable voluntary contribution to the Wiki Foundation.

  9. RobertLongshaft

    As the great Bill Hicks said:

    "If you work in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Borrow a gun from a yank friend, suck on a tailpipe, kill yourself"

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Meh

      Oh my aching sides.

  10. Cuddles Silver badge

    The real question

    How many others are doing exactly the same, but are intelligent enough to keep their mouths shut?

    1. William Towle
      Unhappy

      Re: The real question

      > How many others are doing exactly the same, but are intelligent enough to keep their mouths shut?

      ...Several, I should think.

      Through my contributions to one or two Wikipedia pages I have noticed content being manipulated to this sort of end and ultimately removed or reverted (by others, though I hope I contributed indirectly) under "this [advertising] is not what WP is for" guidelines.

      As much as I don't like the potential for this article to promote the perpetrators, I do approve of raising awareness of the fact it happens.

      It doesn't help that a plethora of sites infrequently scraping Wikipedia content exist though - fortunately in the above case had Google pointed to one of those for its answer instead then it wasn't for long!

  11. Christoph Silver badge

    Not quite as bad as the bunch of wazzocks a few years back who included bits in their TV adverts that made smart speakers read out their Wikipedia page.

    And forgot that their victims could edit Wikipedia.

    1. tim 13

      That was Burger King

  12. ukgnome

    So wikipedia don't like it when you don't play by the rules?

    Tell that to the selfie taking monkey.

  13. SoaG

    Wikipedia exposed as joke.

    Again.

  14. AH

    In Honour of Douglas Adams

    They sound a lot like the Marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation. It would be a real shame if someone were to change the Wiki entry for Leo Burnett Tailor Made to:

    "A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes."

  15. hahnchen
    Flame

    Wikipedia is chock full of advertising

    There are thousands of adverts on Wikipedia, typically masquerading as business articles, or business biographies. It's obvious that volunteers alone aren't going to compete with those paid to edit, and most of the volunteers are not interested in policing business articles.

    The foundation should adopt machine learning tools to highlight edits by suspected corporate sockpuppets. There are so many obvious signals that the editor is paid, the account activity, the categories pages edited, the date from account creation to first edit, the IP address, the other accounts on using the same IP.

  16. VikiAi Silver badge
    Coat

    Are their customers North Fascists?

  17. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    "and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles"

    While making sure that we don't get caught so soon next time.

    And the person that bragged about it is now living somewhere extremely unpleasant (Tennessee?) while trying to sell adverts to squirrels.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The North Face tried to sneakily

    I'm not surprised about the idea and about bragging, given their long-term reputation. But hey, suckers are born every day, not my problem :)

  19. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I'm no lawyer, but here's a question...

    If North Face are putting their intellectual property on Wikipedia, with the expressed intention of it being copied by Google (including it into their search results), are they thus saying that it is perfectly acceptable for anyone to do so, and in contexts which they have no control over?

    If so then have the ad agency not inadvertantly diluted North Face rights to their own intellectual property?

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