Wikipedia:Identifying blatant advertising

Blatant paid advertisement for a notable cleaning product

Wikipedia is a popular and unique website due to its main purpose of being a completely free online encyclopedia for anyone to view and read, but also for its main principle allowing anyone, anywhere, to edit any of its articles and content. Additionally, Wikipedia allows anyone – after creating an account and becoming confirmed – to create and start new Wikipedia articles, as well as create and edit their own user and user talk space. While this completely open forum is the main purpose behind its popularity and diverse array of articles and content, these principles also make Wikipedia an easy target for the creation of articles and pages for the purpose of advertising, spam, and promotion. These creations not only degrade the quality of the encyclopedia, but are fundamentally against Wikipedia's policy as well as its founding principle of providing quality content that is both neutral and verifiable to everyone.

To easily combat the creation of blatant advertisements, any editor can tag the page for speedy deletion by adding {{db-spam}} to the top of it. Only pages that clearly constitute blatant advertising can be deleted under this process. Depending on the content, situation, and different circumstances that can occur, it can sometimes be difficult to identify and discern articles or pages that constitute blatant advertising and meet the criteria for speedy deletion – from those that are good faith attempts to write content that need to be improved, rewritten, or re-worded.

The ability to properly and consistently identify pages that constitute blatant advertising require experience and knowledge of the kind of behaviors, article content, and other signs to look out for as "giveaways". As a recent changes patroller, this is a very important skill to understand and become proficient with. Improperly tagging articles for speedy deletion as blatant advertising not only takes times away from administrators who have to review and decline the deletions, it can also drive new editors away from Wikipedia if they believe that their time and hard work spent writing an article was simply tagged as an "advertisement" with a notice left on their talk page, and without any sort of offer of assistance or feedback given to them to help them learn the rules and improve their writing. Knowing the difference between blatant advertising and a good faith creation that needs improvement, as well as the proper and consistent tagging of articles and pages for speedy deletion – will keep blatant advertising off of Wikipedia, and provide opportunities for new editors to expand their skills and become long-term contributors to the project.

Identifying blatant advertising

An important part of identifying pages or articles that are blatant advertising is to understand what blatant advertising is. Blatant advertising is an article or a page that's created, worded, and designed for the sole and intentional purpose of selling or promoting an idea, product, or service. The most common advertising that you'll find when patrolling new page feeds are pages created on behalf of an organization or company and with the purpose of selling a product, good, or service that it provides. While blatant advertising is usually created on behalf of companies and organizations, they can also apply to pages about people, websites, or the service or product as well. Examples include the creation of an article or page advertising someone's domain or website, or the creation of a page about a person that advertises their skills or job experience.

Advertising is not limited to only the article space. They are also frequently created on the creators' own user and user talk pages, and (occasionally) in other namespaces as well. When patrolling new pages or recent changes, you should not only keep in mind the nature and content on page itself, but also the username of the account that's creating it. A strong indication that the page's purpose is to advertise is the account's username being of the person or the company that it's attempting to advertise on behalf of.

Typical signs of blatant advertising

The list below describes the different usernames, locations, page or article content, and use of wording – that is typically associated with the creation of blatant advertising. Meeting one of the signs listed below does not mean that the page constitutes advertising. However, pages or articles that unambiguously contain content or behaviors that are listed on multiple items below will guide you with using common sense and establishing the likelihood that the page is eligible to be tagged for speedy deletion as blatant advertising.

Behalf of a company or organization

Blatant paid advertisement from a notable company

Blatant advertising on behalf of a company or organization will typically contain some or all of the following traits:

  • It is created by an account with a username that matches the article title or the company that it is attempting to advertise on behalf of, and violates Wikipedia's username policy as a promotional username, or a username that implies shared use, or a position in a company or organization. (e.g. "CompanyName Marketing", "CompanyName Relations", or just "CompanyName"). However, the mere fact that a page was created by an account with an apparent conflict of interest is not, by itself, sufficient to label it blatant advertising; blatant advertising will almost always exhibit at least one (usually several) of the signs listed below. Consider tagging the page with {{COI}} and warning the creator with {{uw-coi}} or {{uw-coi-username}} if such a page is not blatant advertising.
  • It is created as a complete article that is either perfectly formatted to Wikipedia's manual of style by an inexperienced user in one edit, or is formatted consistently throughout but in a different manner or using a different style, language, or code - almost as if the user copied the entire text from somewhere else and pasted it into the edit window.
  • It refers to the company or organization in the first-person ("We are a company based out of Chicago", "Our products are electronics and medical supplies")
  • It refers to the reader, the potential customers or clients, or its intended or desired audience in the second-person ("Acme Cleaning provides solutions that help you to manage your cleaning needs")
  • It describes its company principles, culture, or values in a positive or non-neutral manner. ("CompanyName believes in putting the customer first", "CompanyName is a friendly, local, family owned business for over 10 years")
  • It states or describes the company's mission regarding product quality or reliability, or a standard level of acceptable customer service ("CompanyName is an Organization that aims to provide the best electronics and medical supplies", "It's ranked number one in customer service for over 10 years")
  • It discusses the company's awards, achievements, and unique traits in a non-neutral manner and is worded persuasively so that it stands out from their competition.
  • It clearly and unambiguously attempts to sell or promote a featured, new, flagship, or specific item or service offered by the company.
  • It lists or mentions all of the countries or locations that they provide or ship their products or services to.
  • It provides direct company or sales department contact information so that the reader can inquire about the advertised product or service ("Contact us at 1-800-COMPANY for sales information")
  • It provides an external link to the company's online store, the product's homepage, marketing info or specifications page, product purchasing order page, the feature's service or order customization page, the company sales contact page, or a page with a list of the company's authorized retailers and sellers.
  • An inline citation is added, or an existing one is modified, creating a reference containing a title with advertising, or a URL redirecting to a website that has nothing to do with the text being cited.
  • Trademark or registered trademark symbols repeatedly follow the company's name and/or the name of their products or services. ("CompanyName", "CompanyName®", or "Acme CleanMaster 5000X")
  • The company's name and title is repeatedly referred to and referenced as the page or article subject with its legal entity or legal status suffix included ("CompanyName, Inc.", "CompanyName LLC", "CompanyName Pvt Ltd", "CompanyName GmbH", or "CompanyName Plc")
  • The company's name, key personnel and/or products are repeatedly emphasized by styling, including the inappropriate use of bold or italic type, external links, or capital letters.
  • It has section and subsection headers typical of a corporate website such as "Corporate social responsibility", "Mission and Values", "Meet our leaders", "Our Partners", "Become a member", "Stories and News", "Investor Relations", "Success Stories", "Community Outreach", "Get involved", "Contact information"
  • The content was copied, superficially rewritten or closely paraphrased, in whole or part, from the company's website or social media profiles.
  • It contains a call to action (e.g. "Like Acme on Facebook").

Behalf of a product, item, good, or service

Blatant paid advertisement for a product

Blatant advertising on behalf of a product, item, good, or service offered will typically contain some or all of the following traits:

  • It is created by an account with a username that matches the article title of the product, or a username representing the company that it is attempting to advertise the product on behalf of, and violates Wikipedia's username policy as a promotional username, or a username that implies shared use, or a position in a company or organization. (e.g. "CompanyName Marketing", "CompanyName Relations", or just "CompanyName"). However, as noted above, this alone is not sufficient to label a page blatant advertising.
  • It is created as a complete article that is either perfectly formatted to Wikipedia's manual of style by an inexperienced user in one edit, or is formatted consistently throughout but in a different manner or using a different style, language, or code - almost as if the user copied the entire text from somewhere else and pasted it into the edit window.
  • It refers to the company, organization, or the creator of the product or service in the first-person ("We are a company based out of Chicago", "Our products are electronics and medical supplies")
  • It describes the consumers of the product or service in the second person ("Acme Treadmills helps you to stay fit")
  • It positively describes the product or service and why it's important for people to know about or to purchase, enroll, join, or obtain it.
  • It speaks of the product's reputation in regards to originality, age, dependability, and customer satisfaction ("The original", "Number-one selling", "Highest rated")
  • It compares the product or service to those offered by others and describes this product's superiority or their competitions' product's inferiority.
  • It mentions notable people and claim that they purchase or use the product regularly.
  • It provides external URLs to the product's homepage, websites that promote and sell the product, or links to where to purchase or obtain it.
  • It lists or mentions all of the countries or locations that they provide or ship this products or services to.
  • Trademark or registered trademark symbols follow the company's name and/or their products.
  • The company's name, key personnel and/or products are repeatedly emphasized by styling, including the inappropriate use of bold or italic type, external links, or capital letters.
  • Its reception section is a bullet list of taglines and quotes praising the product followed by bylines to supposedly give it credit.
  • Name-dropping endorsements from media companies, associated companies, partners, people
  • It has section headers typical of a product brochure Q&A "What is (product)?" or "Why use (product)?". It has a "Press" section highlighting the popular positive press it has received.
  • The content was copied, superficially rewritten or closely paraphrased, in whole or part, from the company's website or social media profiles.
  • It contains a call to action, for example "download now", "request a demo" or "like Acme Treadmills on Facebook".

Behalf of a person

Blatant paid advertisement for a notable person

Blatant advertising on behalf of a person (usually the creator writing about themselves) will typically contain some or all of the following traits:

  • It is created by an account with a username that matches the article title (the person's name). However, the mere fact that a page is an autobiography is not, by itself, sufficient to label it blatant advertising; blatant advertising almost always exhibits at least one (usually several) of the signs listed below. Consider tagging the page with {{autobiography}} and warning the creator with {{Uw-autobiography}} if an autobiography is not blatant advertising.
  • It (especially its opening sentence) is full of WP:PEACOCK phrases such as "award-winning", "acclaimed", or "legendary"
  • It positively describes the person's life history and past - the person's youth and upbringing, unique talents they had as children or adolescents, "natural ability" and how their skills were developed quickly, or their intelligence and education.
  • It describes this person's educational career in-depth - typically by listing each school or university the person attended and the qualifications, certificates, deeds, awards, etc earned.
  • It describes this person's professional career or relevant experience in-depth - typically by listing each of the person's held roles, positions, job titles, elected seats, etc along with their responsibilities, accomplishments, and skills needed, and the date in which the person held the job.
  • It includes the person's short-term goals or desired outcomes that they're seeking - it would be worded similarly to that of one's résumé/CV.
  • It speaks positively about the person's personal life - family, volunteer work, beliefs, views, public image, donations to charities, etc.
  • The page content is formatted, styled, organized, or worded like a job résumé/CV.
  • It advertises the person's skills and experience and the work, projects, services, or leadership they would add to a group or team - usually for prospective employers, managers, or prospective customers or clients.
  • Careers are summarized with indefinite periods such as "over 30 years' experience".
  • Name-dropping of more famous people, groups, media.
  • It provides their full personal contact information so that interested parties they're seeking to connect with can contact them.
  • The person's name, their employers and/or their creative works are repeatedly emphasized by styling, including the inappropriate use of bold or italic type, external links or capital letters.
  • The person is referred to by honorific prefixes (Dr., Prof.) throughout the text.
  • The content was copied, superficially rewritten or closely paraphrased, in whole or part, from the person's website, their employer's website, the social media profiles of either or any equivalent promotional biography.
  • It contains a call to action, for example like John Doe on Facebook.

Copyright and promotional text

It is common for employees to reuse previously published marketing materials when creating articles about their employer on Wikipedia. Wikipedia's terms of use do not allow this unless it is explicitly published under a compatible license. If an article is promotional in tone, it should also be checked for copyright violations. This can be done easily using Earwigs Copyvio Detector (however, this misses some things, so checking manually is still good practice). Text that scores as low as 15% is often a copyright violation and might need to be removed and revision deletion requested. If an article requires a fundamental rewrite to remove the copyright violation and the promotional text, it should be tagged for speedy deletion under CSD G12 and CSD G11. If encyclopedic content remains (even if it's just a short stub) after removing all the promotional content, this should be done instead and G11 is not appropriate. If a page is not blatant advertising, but you still believe or suspect it to have been created for promotional purposes, you may use another deletion process. If only part of a page seems to be promotional, fix it yourself or use tags such as {{Advert}}, {{Cleanup-PR}}, {{Peacock}}, or {{Like resume}} to alert others.

What is not blatant advertising

The following are not by themselves sufficient to label something blatant advertising:

  • Non-notability. Notability is a discrete issue that has no bearing on whether a page is promotional.
  • Poor sourcing. Sources are used to verify information on a page. They are unrelated to a text's style or tone.
  • Unencyclopedic tone. G11 requires a promotional tone, not one that's merely somewhat unencyclopedic. Use {{tone}} for articles that are unencyclopedic but not promotional.
  • There is the odd peacock word or external link in the body here and there. The entire page must be full of them to even come close to blatant advertising.
  • Autobiography/conflict of interest. Although not unrelated to the wider issue of whether something may be intended for promotional purposes, this factor is unrelated to whether a page's content is promotional (as noted above).
  • Accurate statements of fact that happen to sound positive, such as winning awards, being a best-selling author, or being the biggest business in a given area.
  • Articles about subjects that you can't imagine anyone wanting to write about unless they were paid to do so. Blatant advertising is about the words on the page, not about your guess at someone else's motivation. Some paid editors write non-promotional articles, and some volunteers write promotional ones.

What to do with blatant advertising

  • If the subject is likely notable:
    • Boldly reduce the article to a stub that contains only encyclopedic content: "Big Business, Inc. is the largest widget manufacturer in Indiana. It was founded in 1969 and is best known for its blue-green widgets.[1]"
    • Boldly merge and redirect the article to a larger subject (e.g., Big Business (widget manufacturer)widget)
    • Revert to a prior, less promotional version of the article.
    • If it's a newly created article, consider moving it to draft so it can be developed there. (WP:DRAFTIFY)
  • If the subject is likely non-notable:

See also

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