Photo: The North Face

This week The North Face pulled off a clever marketing stunt that continues to deliver. Even following the company’s retraction and apology, the glittering underhandedness of the campaign will inspire marketing scum for generations.

The campaign first garnered attention and ire on Tuesday when Ad Age ran a promotional video explaining the scheme‚ÄĒNorth Face did photo shoots of its gear and clothing at various renowned adventure destinations‚ÄĒlike Guarita State Park, Pen√≠nsula do Cabo, Cuillin Hills, and Serra Fina‚ÄĒthen placed the photos on the respective Wikipedia pages, thereby scoring top spots on Google image searches.

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It‚Äôs possible no one would have ever noticed if North Face hadn‚Äôt released a video boasting about its plot. ‚ÄúWe did what no one has done before,‚ÄĚ the text in the video state. ‚ÄúWe hacked the results to reach one of the most difficult places: the top of the world‚Äôs largest search engine.‚ÄĚ

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The promo also states the company paid ‚Äúabsolutely nothing,‚ÄĚ and simply got prominent placement ‚Äúby collaborating with Wikipedia.‚ÄĚ

Collaboration might not have been the right phrasing.

Soon after the campaign was publicized, prominent Wikipedians criticized the scheme.

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The Wikimedia Foundation released a statement asserting that North Face and the ad agency behind the campaign, Leo Burnett Tailor Made, had ‚Äúunethically manipulated Wikipedia‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúrisked your trust in our mission for a short-lived marketing stunt.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation did not collaborate on this stunt, as The North Face falsely claims,‚ÄĚ the statement read. ‚ÄúWhen The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry.‚ÄĚ

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Following the outrage from Wikipedia and its community, The North Face issued an apology on Wednesday night.

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Leo Burnett did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment. Reached for comment, North Face did not answer Gizmodo’s question about why the company claimed it collaborated with Wikipedia, but a spokesperson sent the same statement the company shared publicly Wednesday evening.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, volunteer Wikipedia editors have removed all the images or cropped out North Face products. The foundation claims what North Face did ‚Äúwas akin to defacing public property.‚ÄĚ

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Vandals, or marketing pioneers? History will be the judge.