Just as we had all gotten a good laugh out of Wikipedia for planting its founder's mug atop its pages while seeking donations, the non-profite site began its annual Wikimedia Foundation campaign with a simple, bright message today — a banner that Wikipedia told The Atlantic Wire would remain... for now.
"In previous years you would have seen photographs," Jay Walsh, head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, told us this afternoon. "We are less likely to run images in the banner space. It will be simple direct messages like you see now."
Walsh did say that users might get a Wales gaze later in the month-long campaign, but at this early stage the message needs to remain "crisp and simple." Like so:
The Internet had a lot of fun joking about Wales's gaze, but luckily for our consciences, it doesn't sound like the name-calling facilitated this change. While Wales has stared millions of people into giving millions of dollars over the years, Wikipedia's Walsh tells us that the stark banners make more money. "The simple, more direct messages tend to have a better response rate from donors," he said. The new yellow banners, which officially launched today but have been running in test markets over the last month, are already outperforming last year's ads. That's pretty surprising considering this 2010 chart from Motherboard's Alex Pasternack:
The yellow donation banners are doing so well that the foundation has, in fact, shortened the target run of its campaign. But Wikipedia's fundraising success might not have everything to do with the faceless messages. The donation process has gotten smoother. Before, a click on the banner would lead to a separate landing page, where donors could input credit card information. Now, the donation box pops up on the article page. The plea has also gotten clearer, with just a few sentences from Wales, a much clearer statement than that whole essay from last year.
The campaign will run through the month of December, during which time we'll keep an eye out for Wales's face. If his mug doesn't show up that entire time, though, that means the text-heavy loud and clear messages worked just fine. In which case, we might have to say goodbye to creepy Jimmy Wales forever.