Motrin Mania Ignited on Twitter, Mad Moms Mobilize

motrin_baby_wearing.jpg

This is one of those thing's that causes one to scream, "Oh for fuck's sake!" Or better yet, "Jesus, fucking Christ!" Why the harsh language? Because, yet again, America has lost its sense of humor and has gotten its underwear up its crack over an innocuous Motrin ad which pokes fun at babywearing. For the uninformed, babywearing (yes, there's an actual Babywearing week) is the art of carrying your child in a sling. You've seen plenty of moms and dads with a child slung around their bodies as if the baby were yet another MacBook Pro.

In a new commercial, Motrin decided to help, albeit in an overly snarky fashion, those suffering back pain due to babywearing. After all, as the ad says, "these things" are heavy. But it's done because it "totally makes me look like an official mom," And who doesn't want to look like an official mom these days? What with Brooke Shields advocating pregnancy just to get a VW minivan and babies crawling around the conference room floors of office across the country, momhood is hot! And Motrin wants a piece of smokin' hot MILF'y goodness.

Alas, the party didn't last long. Predictably, Twitter is in an uproar. Predictably, someone made a protest video. Predictably, Motrin has caved and issued an apology (from McNeil Consumer Healthcare VP of Marketing Kathy Widmer). Predictably, Motrin has pulled the ad from their website. In fact, their entire site is/was down for a while.

Maybe we all just need to relax and...hmm...go Motoring.

More seriously, David Armano has some good advice for companies which find themselves in this predicament and how they can quickly react.

UPDATE: As of mid-day Monday, the Motrin site is back up and it contains an apology from VP of Marketing Kathy Widmer. It's not clear why the site was down for so long.

by Steve Hall    Nov-16-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Brands, Opinion, Social, Video   

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Comments



Comments

hey steve, watch out or the mommy bloggers will get mad at you for fuck's sake. :>)

Posted by: B.L Ochman on November 16, 2008 10:51 PM

Bring 'em on! ;)

Posted by: Steve Hall on November 16, 2008 11:07 PM

It's a suck ad and it puts a negative spin on babywearing...JNJ should have known better...don't blame the marketing mommies from twitter for having more business and marketing saavy.

Posted by: samsmomjen on November 16, 2008 11:11 PM

Um... why is ANYONE upset over this? It was a cutesy joke that wearing a baby in a sling is in fashion. People seriously want to get upset over that? It's not trying to speak on behalf of all moms nor is it doing anything other than being cute.

How can anyone seriously be upset over this? I feel really bad for Motrin because they did nothing wrong.

Posted by: Ariel Waldman' on November 16, 2008 11:14 PM

A joke is supposed to be funny. The ad wasn't funny.

Posted by: MissPinkKate on November 16, 2008 11:21 PM

If Motrin feels all news about the company is good news, they hit pay dirt. And folks will come out of this suggesting they got more bounce out of the ad now that it tweaked someone(s).

Note what ad sense is already serving at the top of this page.

Posted by: Kevin Dugan on November 16, 2008 11:22 PM

Yes! To us (and I include myself) it's funny. But ethnic jokes and sex jokes and religious jokes are funny, too. They really are.

In context.

Out of context, this ad hacked off a bunch of people (justifiably or not I have been married too long to speculate about) and that's kind of, y'know, not good.

Check my preliminary take at http://tinyurl.com/motrinad

Posted by: Lally on November 16, 2008 11:31 PM

Well if you didn't know Motrin wanted moms to use their product, you sure do now! Though I don't think the ad was offensive, I do think it was off target, and they should have consulted with a few more moms first to see how the ad went over before going live. Now, the horribly un-responsive MotrinMoms Twitter account that continued to Twitter while the rest of the Twitter world trashed the company? That's a different story...

Posted by: Cory O'Brien on November 16, 2008 11:34 PM

Glad to see I'm not the only one subject to ire by the MotrinMafia :)
http://muttonchopsbyiris.blogspot.com

Posted by: Iris Carter on November 16, 2008 11:49 PM

I didn't get it at first, but I'm not a mom of an infant. To me that gets at the screw up here -- clearly the Motrin brand team didn't focus group this campaign before launch with the target demographic.

It's also clear their PR group isn't looped into what the brand team is up to. (The response would have been quicker and more complete.)

Do you think print media will write about this on Monday?

Posted by: John Taylor on November 16, 2008 11:51 PM

Now even more people will want to see the ad because they have taken it down. Brilliant!

Posted by: WillF on November 16, 2008 11:55 PM

Don't understand what the big deal is. It may not be a great ad, creatively, but it's just a tongue and cheek send-up of this baby transportation trend. Wish more people would use the groundswell to communicate about the more serious issues of the day.

Posted by: CJ on November 17, 2008 12:05 AM

Man do I have a hankering for Motrin. Why is that?

Posted by: Guhmshoo on November 17, 2008 1:05 AM

Perhaps if they showed a baby shower with expecting moms crushing up ibuprofen to make Motrinis, this would be alarming, but...

Honestly. Should this really offend mothers?*

The "babywearing" concept HAD potential. Motrin's biggest mistake -- prior to caving -- was not making the ad both funny and real. If they would've shown a real woman, with a real baby, in real life circumstances (read: funny), negotiating the obstacle course that is life, nobody would be complaining because... it would be real. Everyone -- not just mothers -- would understand her back pain.

If you're doing an ad that involves either motherhood and/or pain, you had better show real people, not just text. All the @motrinmoms saw was (trying-hard-to-be-cute) text, and boom... they now had a set of lines to read between.

David Ogilvy's advice: "Do not strain credulity. A person in pain wants to believe that you can help [her]. [Her] will to believe is an active ingredient in the efficacy of the product."

A "show, don't tell" approach would've worked better.

Show me a woman in pain, not some radio ad starring a font, where the mom is voiceover and the baby is a giggly plastic truck stop changing board sticker icon. Moms can take a joke. Moms are willing to see themselves portrayed as rushed and physically stressed. They're just not so into your brand minimizing the baby-momma relationship, and the best way to do that is to not show a real baby or a real momma (or a real babymomma, but I digress).

My hunch from their knee-jerk PR response is that Motrin was so nervous with the Babywearing concept to begin with that they diluted the creative by running it through lawyers and everyone else in the Business Prevention Unit until this ad Ouija'd its way into existence. At least that's how these things tend to happen.

Motrini, anyone?

[*No. But it should offend anyone who understands psychographics.]

Posted by: Robert Gorell on November 17, 2008 2:06 AM

I thought is was a smarmy ad. Did they deserve the uproar? That's for someone else to decide, but the company and their ad agency were caught unaware and panicked.

There's a lesson here ... If you're going to be online these days, you'd better know what people are saying about you.

Posted by: Bonnie on November 17, 2008 4:04 AM

Dare I go against the crowd and say that as a baby carrying mom not so long ago, my back hurt. I did not find the ad particularly funny, but I did not find it particularly offensive either.

Posted by: Maureen Francis on November 17, 2008 7:26 AM

It's the power of social media at play here. That's why this is so interesting. You take a poorly thought out ad, targeting a highly reachable audience (especially on the web), put it out there and boom! It blows up right in your face.

Sure there was an insight in there some where. Yes, my back ached when I had an infant to carry around. But denegrating a particular practice among a group of moms is a sure pathway to disaster. Why not say great things about babycarrying and how Motrin can help you do it all day long. Why make it snarky and not really funny at all?

And I find the response to the response so much more interesting than the controversy itself.

Posted by: interested party on November 17, 2008 8:37 AM

the problem with the ad, to me, is that they are trying to identify with babywearing moms. we do not see ourselves as part of a trend. attachment parenting is not a fad and certainly moms are not doing it because it is "in fashion" but because of the tremendous benefits to baby, both physically and emotionally. it was offbase to say that we do it to feel like an "official" mom. also, if anything, proper babywearing alleviates back aches, so... motrin was wrong... another point, most attachment style parents also are less inclined to use products like motrin on their children.

Posted by: righthere on November 17, 2008 9:10 AM

thanks for making my day Steve!

Posted by: Adam Broitman on November 17, 2008 11:21 AM

I don't think that the add was especially funny, but I also don't think it was offensive--especially to the audience in question. All in all it was just off target.

Posted by: Jill Woelfel on November 17, 2008 1:12 PM

This is ridiculous. Great post Steve.

As the comments show, one can only ask WTF is the country coming to when damn near EVERYTHING pisses off SOMEBODY.

Posted by: woody hinkle on November 17, 2008 1:12 PM

I don't think that the add was especially funny, but I also don't think it was offensive--especially to the audience in question. All in all it was just off target.

Posted by: Jill Woelfel on November 17, 2008 1:13 PM

How about a Dad's perspective who also happens to be in this industry and can see it from all sides? First off Dad's get screwed all the time when something upsets the Mom's. It's as if we don't have any say in this matter and don't control any buying decisions in our household once a child shows up. I'm not offended in the least by this ad and the fact that they targeted women with it. I buy Motrin for myself as well as my child. I also buy Advil for myself and Tylenol for my child. All three brands serve a purpose so I'm loyal to all of them. The ad was cute and simple. I liked it and the fact that it didn't take itself seriously, which is my number one complaint of parents; especially new ones.

I have a two year old and another on the way. I wore a Baby Bjorn, and will soon be again, not for a bonding experience, but rather ease of movement and when cold, a toasty bit of warmth. Yes, they are a bit dorky, but after a short period of time you realize how incredibly useful they are. Want to know a big secret? Sometimes my back and shoulders hurt after wearing it for too long and I would take Motrin if it was too much to handle. If my wife was around we would swap on the fly. This whole "I'm bonding with my child" crap is the biggest side-effect of how bamboozled parents get with child raising and us Americans are the biggest suckers who fall for just about anything. Parenting is a primal and natural instinct and can be done sans monitors, Dr. Brown bottles, bears with womb sounds, mirrors for my car so I can see my newborn pile of mush sleeping, etc. yet somehow "we" fear trusting our instinct in favor of what we read or what the La Leche Gestapo tells us. The second my child came out of the womb I was instantly bonded to her. There is not one single product, silly wrap or sling on this planet that could help my bond get any stronger. That's love. That's instinct. That's parenting. The only thing that offends me is that I get plopped into the same category as these people. Parenting is hard enough to have others try to suck out all of the fun for the rest of us.

Posted by: Marc Girolimetti on November 17, 2008 4:59 PM

Whoa, 25 comments by the time I get here? Someone hit a sore spot! I have to agree with you, Steve. After reading all of the negative coverage and tweets from horrified mommy bloggers, I was itching to see the ad and be smacked in the face with a "what the %$&! were they thinking?!" moment. But I was kind of like...huh? Granted, I am not a mom, and therefore am not tuned in to the sensitivities that come with the role. But I was actually wondering if I was viewing the right ad after reading about the violent reaction. If nothing else, this is a lesson to brands to A) test your ad concepts with your target market and B) monitor your brand coverage in social media! The slow response time is more offensive to me than the ad itself.

Posted by: Katrina Limbaugh on November 17, 2008 5:01 PM

You might want to check out MOMbo TV's perspective on the Motrin fiasco. I agree that some people got way too worked up, but MOMbo's criticism of the ad is one that I can understand. http://www.mombotv.com

Posted by: Arecely on November 17, 2008 5:46 PM

I "wore" my baby and it hurt my back and I took Tylenol. I wasn't offended by the ad but I do think it's condescending. I think the media reaction and all the Twitter Moms is a bit much - but I'm with you, WTF and with Shankman, Motrin needed to apologize and move on. Especially considering the ad was nothing to write home about - rather bland and kinda silly.

Back to my back breaking work of being a mommy.

Posted by: Kathleen Formidoni on November 17, 2008 6:49 PM

And, in other news, there are kids starving in Africa. Perhaps we need to reassess our sources of outrage?

Posted by: Ryan Anderson on November 18, 2008 12:52 AM

I've refused to blog about this latest kerfuffle because I can't decide if it's a better case study of a brand understimating the potential ire of a select market (moms) or if its a better example of what happens when too many people think they have a right to be heard and the technology to broadcast themselves around the world.

Seriously, one mom was so outraged that within 24 hours of Motrin's marketing gaffe, she had produced t-shirts and coffee mugs and was selling them on CaffePress. Pa-lease! That smells like blatant opportunism.

This is "Joe the Plumber" all over again.

Mike Bawden
Brand Central Station

Posted by: Mike Bawden on November 18, 2008 11:44 AM

I don't think that the ad was especially funny, but I also don't think it was offensive--especially to the audience in question. All in all it was just off target.

Posted by: Jill Woelfel on November 18, 2008 12:36 PM

Why the voiceover totally sounds like an official ironic teenager? They tried to make the script sound "hip" and in return it sounds stupid and patronising.

Posted by: Somebody on November 18, 2008 2:13 PM

Hmmmmm...way to piss me off all over again. As if the commercial wasn't enough, you have to reduce legitimate complaints down to the ravings and rantings of "mommy bloggers". The commercial makes light of a legitimate way of carrying your baby and now you make light of legitimate outrage.

If you'd bother to do some reading about WHY people wear babies, it's not treating them like an object as you imply comparing babywearing to lugging a laptop around. It's all about bonding and raising decent, emotionally healthy children. This is actually something important to the well-being of our society, not a fad as the commercial implies, and not some random unimportant cause championed by mommy bloggers.

Those of us who are devoted to babywearing deserves props, not your snarky criticism. It's hard work raising an attached child and it's hard work babywearing past the what I shall now christen the "laptop phase".

I shall now finish my morning coffee while mumbling "idiot".

Posted by: A dreaded MOMMY BLOGGER on November 19, 2008 8:16 AM

Wow. "too many people think they have a right to be heard."

That's quite a statement. And you're pissed off at some female entrepreneur for "opportunism?" Uh, like, the subject in question was an ADVERTISEMENT. As in selling something. No "opportunism" there.

I'm with "interested party" I find the response to the response so much more interesting than the controversy itself.

It's very revealing.

Posted by: xarkGirl on November 20, 2008 8:52 AM

Wow.

"...too many people think they have a right to be heard."

That's quite a comment. And you're pissed off at some female entrepreneur for "opportunism?" Uh, like, the subject in question was an ADVERTISEMENT. As in selling something. No "opportunism" there.

I'm with "interested party" who wrote "I find the response to the response so much more interesting than the controversy itself."

It's very revealing.

Posted by: xarkGirl on November 20, 2008 8:56 AM

thansk for sharing.a

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