Motrinmoms: Tying up the loose ends

Whether you thought the Motrin ad was off the mark or not, I think it’s safe to say that what happened on Twitter on Nov. 15 and 16 was unprecedented. A group of moms who were collectively offended by a condescending, patronizing and poorly thought out ad that made false statements about babywearing banded together in a very short amount of time resulting in Motrin pulling their ad and issuing an apology.

Contrary to what some may believe, it’s not just been the mommy bloggers who are writing about this (though many are). It’s numerous tech, marketing, advertising and social media bloggers too. Some of these posts include: Social Media Storm Spreads as Motrin Ad Angers Moms by BL Ochman, Motrin: A Case Study in Social Media Marketing by Toby Bloomberg, Moms Give Motrin a Headache by David Armano, The #motrinmoms Lesson by Susan Getgood Motrin learns: Hell hath no fury like baby-wearing moms by Media Caffeine, The Real Problem with the Motrin Ads by Peter Shankman, and How Twittering Critics Brought Down Motrin Mom Campaign by Advertising Age, just to name a few. I can’t tell you the number of times my blog has been linked to in the past 24 hours because I’ve lost count, but I can tell you my hits are through the roof.

I’ve seen a lot of reactions to this both here on my blog and elsewhere around the ‘net. Some people are calling for Motrin employees to be fired and I have to say I think that is a bit extreme. We’ve all been in jobs where we’ve made mistakes (um, especially in the job of being Mom) and, hopefully for our sake, we weren’t fired as a result. With the economy the way it is, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Others are saying that the moms overreacted or that moms should be using their power for greater causes and that we wasted their time on this one. First of all I believe that we all have different causes that speak to us. If everyone supported the same thing, what a boring world this would be. Secondly, who’s to say what other causes we are active in supporting? Who’s to say we can only devote our energy to one cause at a time? I know many of the moms on Twitter are activists and involved in causes that speak to them, just as I am. Why should we have to justify why something speaks to us and why we feel motivated to act on it? If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

I think the fact that moms were able to band together as quickly as they did demonstrates (once again) that women, and moms in particular, are a force to be reckoned with. And ya know what? We all have to start somewhere. Who’s to say that a mom who was a part of the Motrin thing won’t feel empowered to take on something bigger next time? My first foray into activism a few years ago involved emailing Target about a shirt that had a message I didn’t agree with. Target pulled the shirts from its racks. Similarly to what’s going on now, there were many nay-sayers, but I learned a few valuable lessons: that there is power in numbers and that it’s important to stand up for the things you believe in, no matter how small they may seem. I’ve gone on to become an activist for other things. Most recently, it was volunteering for the Obama campaign and making phone calls to voters in my battleground state of Colorado and I wasn’t the only mom involved. Does that count as a “greater cause?” Who knows what we’ll tackle next. ;)

Personally, I was pleased to see that Motrin issued an apology and pulled the ad. I don’t believe the ad ever should have been made public though. I hope that Motrin/Johnson & Johnson and other companies that want to market to moms have learned that being involved in social media is important, if not crucial, and perhaps they will run future ads by a group of moms from diverse backgrounds to give it a test run. I feel fairly confident that if they had shown the babywearing ad to a handful of moms (both babywearers and non-babywearers), there would have been some negative reactions and it would have caused them to rethink it.

ibw_xlarge.jpgMoving right along…

Did I mention that this is International Babywearing Week? Oh, Yes. It Is. (Not good timing for Motrin, eh?)

Babywearing International has issued a response to Motrin. Part of the response asked McNeil Consumer Healthcare to help right the wrongs.

Babywearing International, Inc., calls upon McNeil Consumer Healthcare to counter the effects of this offensive ad campaign in the following ways:

- Completely discontinue the campaign by not allowing any further publication of it in any media;

- Undertake an equally prominent campaign that portrays babywearing mothers as the savvy parents and consumers they actually are;

- Undertake an equally prominent campaign that explains the proven benefits of babywearing and directly counters the portrayal of babywearing as painful or as a practice that makes babywearing mothers cry;

- Undertake a campaign to educate healthcare providers as well as patients about the research-proven benefits of babywearing. In fact, babywearing makes mothers more confident and results in fewer tears for both mothers and children.

Recognizing that Motrin is a brand that has heretofore been mother-friendly as well as child-friendly, Babywearing International would consider assisting Motrin in partially repairing the recent damage to its image by having Motrin’s collaboration in our Medical Outreach Campaign, through which we provide research-based information to medical doctors, counselors, and parents concerning the health benefits of babywearing.

I’d love to see Motrin respond to Babywearing International and take them up on their offer for assistance.

Lastly, here are two good examples of what Motrin could have chosen to do with the ad, which would have saved them time, money and yes, many, many headaches.

And to think all of this began with one little tweet: “hey babywearers, have you seen Motrin’s new ad campaign bashing babywearing??!” Who could have predicted the outcome? Not me.
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My Related Posts:

* Motin’s new ad attacks babywearing, insults moms
* We’ve blogged and tweeted the Motrin ad. What can moms do next?
* Motrin’s response to the onslaught of complaints

Related Posts with Thumbnails

41 thoughts on “Motrinmoms: Tying up the loose ends

  1. wow … what a storm eh? I think it is awesome the outcome of it all. I missed most of it as weekends I am not a “bored, have too much time on my hands stay at home mom” hahaha …. some people have such a messed up view of the majority of stay at home moms!

  2. Thanks for writing that. I had a hard time articulating why it hurts my feelings to see other women say we who were offended by Motrin’s ad are just a bunch of whiners who should be focusing on more important issues. You’re absolutely right–taking action against Motrin and taking action to help other, bigger causes are not mutually exclusive. Actually, it seems to me that the moms who gave Motrin a piece of their mind are far, FAR more likely to advocate for a host of other important things (case in point, YOU). I am proud to see a group of moms get an ad like that pulled so quickly!

  3. I can’t help but wonder if the ad wasn’t *timed* to Babywearing Week. It’s too much of a coincidence, and there are so many other pains they could have chosen.

  4. Very interesting point, Susan – I had the same thought – that the coincidence was uncanny, but my cynical side says that Motrin and their marketing company had no idea that Babywearing Week existed!

    Amy, thank you so much for posting my version of the ad – I am honored to grace your magnificent blog pages…

    And, like you, I can’t wait to see what us MOMS tackle next! Though, this Motrin issue was unique, I’d say we did quite a number on Sarah Palin as well…

  5. People often complain that others are whiners when they don’t feel strongly about the same things or don’t recognize the importance of something. I had someone call me a whiner for writing about the rights of breastfeeding moms and their babies. She felt that I should focus on more important issues like homelessness. Well in this world, a lot of things are linked in ways that people don’t realize. Breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding) is linked to homelessness ( http://phdinparenting.com/2008/09/19/lactivism-and-the-homelessness-problem/ ), just as babywearing is linked to a baby’s emotional and physical well being (not just a fashion statement, thank you very much).

  6. Thank you so much for writing this, my own blog post of today is about the same issue and I have been debating whether to hit the publish button or not. It is upsetting to see that so many people reached negatively even though it was an amazing accomplishment of cohesive opinion moms were able to voice out and resulted in the ad taken down.

  7. I think what’s great and what David Armano conveyed really well in the Ad Age article about what happened with Motrin is “Many people with small networks have just as much influence as a few people with large networks.” Social media proves that time and again. I wrote about it on our blog, which I hope you don’t mind that I linked to via my name.

    @piercemattiepr on Twitter

  8. Excellent wrap-up. I’m disappointed that I have not received an email response to my complaint yet though. I think it says a lot that J&J is only personally responding to the bloggers it thinks are key stakeholders.

    I have to roll my eyes at the naive people who ask if we don’t have anything better to do. This nation couldn’t run without the constant volunteer efforts and advocacy of moms. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

  9. You make many great points as you articulate just why this is an important issue to us. I’m especially struck by the point about getting started somewhere.

    As a Girl Scout leader, I help empower girl leaders by helping them Discover, Connect, and Take Action. In simplistic terms, that is how all activists and leaders get started.

    I am looking forward to seeing how Twitter Parent Power translates into making our world a better place!

  10. I agree with you that this was an unprecedented campaign that effectively ended a negative ad very quickly….amazing! I don’t agree with the others that say the mothers outraged by this campaign were “whining”. Babywearing is certainly a very personal and emotional topic, and one that hold high importance for a large number of mothers. I do agree however, that their are very important topics to tackle. For one, our dependence on coal and mountaintop removal. I sincerely hope that this can be an issue that we spread the word about and get others outraged about the “clean coal” campaigns that are fleecing our country.
    Thanks for speaking out, we need eachother collectively to make a difference on any issue, from the seemingly small, to the overwhelmingly large.

  11. so well thought out-great post. i just thought about this…j & j seem very proactive in enticing the “mommy bloggers” with camp baby. who would have thought that with many moms in their back pocket they could have made such a colossal mistake?!

  12. More effective protest is just not to purchase their product. It hits them where it counts.

    This amazed me that it took off and became such a storm. I don’t mind the initial protest, but it grew a life of it’s own that seemed a little overblown.

    And then the outrage turned into the excitement of a crowd raging and egging each other on. Group dynamics are fascinating.

    I just saw an ad for toothpaste that could be taken wrong. What about all the Christmas ads just starting OFFENDING those of other religions? I think some of it we should just voice our opinion and then move on. And some of it should just be let go.

    I agree with you, this may give people the voice to protest more important things. And for that little gain, I guess it was worthwhile. Time to let it go, so thanks for the closure.

    I would highly doubt that Motrin didn’t screen this commercial. Companies focus group everything that goes out. And maybe the ad was aimed at baby wearing moms who have that “I’m better than you because I’m wearing my three year old” attitude. (Be truthful, they are out there)

    I wore my kid without making a show out of it. I think that’s the way most people approach it. How else can you get anything done? And actually, it made my back feel better!

    This seemed to consume so many people. Now on to more important things (because truth be told, this really is an insignificant issue in the scheme of things).

    Remember Darfur? The war? Let’s go!

  13. I missed this all on Twitter. Not that you all needed the help but you know I would have been there with you all! The only time I can think my back hurt carrying my baby was when I had to lug that infant car seat around! I can see where Motrin thought they were on the side of us mommies, but alas, they were not!

  14. I’m not all into the whole boycotting and people being fired and all that. I do think they were clueless and have taken steps to rectify the whole situation. So I feel better about the whole thing. Hopefully all will be well again and people in that position will think before they advertise. ;)

  15. I think I may have figured out the disconnect I’m having here.

    It’s not ‘unprecedented’ to some of us. Some of us have used Twitter and our blogs before to do this sort of thing. So it wasn’t new to me…perhaps that’s why I’m having issues with what I do see as some fringe over-reaction?

    Using the power of our voices responsibly isn’t unheard of. I’m curious to see what’s next…

  16. Well, I think a LOT of people are overreacting to the Motrin material. Personally, I am offended by people carrying their babies in slings — what’s wrong with actually HOLDING Children, for crissakes?! And what about the ad that appears on this blog touting the “superpowers” that breastfeeding brings. I think what this boils down to is a lot of self-righteous, insecure woman who don’t have a clue as to how to truly empower themselves (does the self-imposed rank of “supermommies” tell you anything?) whining about something of absolutely no consequence. Sure, the company caved. It can’t afford not to. Sure, a relatively small group of social networkers was able to provoke a response. That’s actually the point here — what does this say about the rights of the vast majority of women who were NOT offended?

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  18. I’m so glad to see you take a stand on the whole lynch mob mentality of asking for resignations. The ad was pulled, the company has been responsive, and now they get a chance to connect with their audience a little better.

    You done good, mama.

    As for whatsisname up there, lovemykidstoo- I guess it’s politically incorrect to call someone retarded, right? So I won’t.

  19. Dismissing people (e.g. by calling them whiners with nothing better to do) is a time-honored, and frankly effective, way to marginalize those with whom you don’t agree. It drives me batty.

    We tried to leverage the flurry for a larger cause by tying a sales promotion into a fundraiser for a cause related to babywearing (NoMotherLeftBehind.com). It felt like a way to turn Motrin’s misstep, and the resulting apology, into something larger with significance beyond opening all of our eyes to our power, as active, caring, linked-in mothers.

  20. Nice recap on the issues that interwove and created a bit of social media history. From a marketing perspective, the “Motrin Moms” experience (“Motrin Moms” could turn into a powerful, positive asset for the Motrin brand)reinforced that the game has changed. Marketers must understand how social media is influencing the ways people communicate and the extent of that exchange. The challenge is not fear the new ways but to join customers in learning how to use these tools – together.

    Thanks for the shout out and for your energies keeping us all up to date.

  21. I did not see the ad, but it is unfortunate that moms were offended. I am glad that action was taken and that an apology was issued. I think that it is hard not to take things like this to heart. I must admit that I was not able to “wear” my son for very long. He gained weight very fast, and I am a very slight person. I tried various carriers, but in the end I held him most of the time and spent lots of time sitting with him. My husband was able to wear him longer than I, which caused many more looks than I got. But we both had sore shoulders and backs from the experience. Regardless, I think ad companies and their clients need to do much more research before releasing ads about such topics. There is lots of misinformation out there and this is what happens when these topics are not given their due. I celebrate all those who choose baby-wearing and for those of you with 97th percentile in weight babies like mine, don’t feel bad if you can’t wear them, you just have to sit more, and take lots of breaks to hold them when you use the stroller.

  22. Great post Amy.
    Although after reading it, I’m still confused as to why anyone who didn’t feel offended by the ad felt so threatened by those who did.

    I’m still disconnecting on that.

    I guess I always will. I didn’t wear my daughter (she would have none of it) and I wasn’t AP – but I found the ad offensive… and I said so and got lumped in one box.
    Then I said “okay, they pulled the ad and apologized let’s move on” and got lumped in another box.

    I expect tomorrow I will find out that I will be on the wrong “side” of the issue no matter which side I’m perceived on.
    And really? Why?

    I have one person who blocked me b/c I refused to agree with her that ‘all those mommybloggers’ should be more concerned about her pet cause. I have one who told me ‘if she saw me tweet about Motrin again, she’d probably block me.’

    It’s the internet – at best, most folks make sense and then there’s a few who never will.

    Whoops – tangent. Sorry. Again: Great post!

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  24. Very nicely summed up Amy. It WAS incredibly impressive in how quickly things happened and I agree with you on your statement about causes that matter to different people. I think it’s a sign of the time and the consumer power of mothers.

    Funny, the people I saw complaining that people should take up greater causes don’t bother to do so themselves. I wouldn’t dare say what should be important to others.

    My last comment on this blog did ask people to put things into perspective, but it was only to highlight that not all moms feel exactly the same way and that certainly Motrin didn’t mess up on purpose as some were suggesting.

    By the way, I told my husband about this who has been trying all kinds of baby wearing gear and he can’t get anything to be comfortable with his arthritic back. He doesn’t believe that it shouldn’t hurt, but he loves to do it. We keep searching for the right solution! :-)

  25. Well thought out post, Amy (and thanks for linking to the news stories). I will add your post as a resource in my Motrin Marketing Collides With Social Media post as soon as I’m finished here (fyi, my name’s linked to the blog).

    I really like the positive steps Babywearing International is suggesting. I believe this approach — rather than calling for heads to roll — is the correct one.

    As a former Brand Manager myself, IMO neither the ad agency nor Motrin brand team set out to offend the very people they were trying to attract (really, no one would risk their career like that — especially in this economy). I believe it was a matter of naivety, short-sightedness and improper research. In short, they did not understand how people who are knowledgeable about babywearing think or feel.

    True, they may have been specifically targeting the segment of babywearers who do so primarily because others are doing it. Which is OK by itself. What is not OK is they did it in a way that DISCREDITS THE PRACTICE of babywearing. The young mom is skeptical (“…supposedly, it creates a bonding experience”) and the ad leaves the impression that it’s *supposed* to hurt. These are both negative impressions that will influence the viewpoint of anyone watching the ad.

    This, I believe, is a big part of why so many are up in arms. It’s OK for a commercial to have a viewpoint, but to do so by putting down a segment of the same customer group it’s trying to attract is crazy and infuriating.

  26. I just watched the ad to see what everyone has been talking about and I can’t believe that actually got through in the first place! Obviusly no baby wearing mom had anything to do with the making of that commercial! What were they thinking?
    This reminds me of the time NBC and teleflora tried calling adoptive moms “non-mom’s” on their mother’s day contest. Suffice to say the term was changed before it aired. :-)

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  29. Not being a mom, I’m hesitant to post here, as I anticipate some angry women posting that I can’t possibly understand. However, I’ll just say that I’ve carried my child around most of the day in a Baby Bjorn quite a bit, and while it works well, you can’t be intellectually honest and say your lower back doesn’t ache towards the end of the day. All the ad does is identify with that and say, “it’s ok, because it’s for my kid”.

    The fact that someone who is apparently a rabid “babywearing” advocate (I never even knew that was a term) posted to an online group about how the ad “bash(es) babywearing” and got a bunch of moms all stirred up about it is amazing to me, especially since the ad did no such thing. It didn’t say babywearing was bad or good. It merely said some people wear their babies, gave some reasons why they might make that decision (fashion, bonding, hands-free carrying), that some find it painful, and for those that do, try some Motrin. Now I know I don’t have breasts, so I’m clearly unqualified to speak on the subject, but as a babywearing Dad, this ad made perfect sense.

    I think lovemykidstoo is on the right track here. IMO, this is politically correctness run amok. It makes me sad that we have bow to the wishes of every little niche group that might get offended over any perceived slight, no matter what anyone else might think.

  30. You are sooo right about this incident empowering other blogger moms to “take on the man”. I am blogging about this link (http://www.dallasobserver.com/2003-04-17/news/1-hour-arrest/) and sending it to a bunch of you big-time mommy-bloggers that support breastfeeding, babywearing and other natural mom practices. It’s a travesty of justice that ought to be addressed. And after the events of the last week, I feel like there is a chance that mommy-bloggers can make a difference here, too.

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