Brands Not Welcome

Anyone who graduated high school or college in the past 15 years owes a little to Wikipedia.

For better or for worse, and sometimes because of a lack of alternatives, Wikipedia is trusted. Not many other media would so unequivocally put an end to late-night debates among friends on who scored the last touchdown of the 2015 Super Bowl and what is the best-selling albums in history (Julian Edelman and Thriller… according to Wikipedia).

It is engaging. First, by its nature itself, as an open platform powered by the wisdom of the crowd. But also because, well, who hasn’t ended up in a Wikipedia rabbit hole where you might find yourself reading an article on, say, Alfred the Great, King of Essex (I started 10 minutes ago on an article on the black mamba. The snake btw, not Kobe Bryant. Another interesting entry actually: I just learnt that he gave himself the nickname).

And finally, as many people’s go-to source of knowledge, it is extremely influential. Hence why any public figure’s Wikipedia page is always a battlefield to shape public perception. A 10-day debate among Wikipedia contributors followed the Trump/Putin Helsinki summit on if and how to include it on Trump’s entry.

Wikipedia is the perfect Meaningful Media. And yet, beloved outdoors brand The North Face faces a major backlash for having “surreptitiously replaced photos of popular outdoor destinations on Wikipedia with photos featuring North Face products in an attempt to get these products to appear more prominently in search engine results.” Quite a nice meta summary by Wikipedia.

No doubt Wikipedia would be ranked quite high according to our Meaningful Digital Matrix tool to help identify online meaningful media properties. As we all know, Wikipedia doesn’t include any display advertising so no risk of some ill-advised buy. That being said, what the North Face debacle tells us is that to build a great Media Experience, the human expertise and sensibility of media planners and buyers will always be key, and the right safeguard to a PR mess.

Mx is an operating system, not artificial intelligence. It requires adult supervision. Because we need to remember that brands are not always welcome in the world of media that matters.