Posted November 16, 2008 3:10 pm by

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Whenever I counsel clients about the use of social media, I always advise they speak to their target audience and figure out what messaging (and channel) would appeal to them.

I’m not sure if the manufacturer of Motrin followed that advice, but judging by the enormous backlash the company is facing over it’s new Motrin “Mom-Alogue” video, I suspect they didn’t speak to a single mother (at least, they didn’t speak to any that use Twitter).

Taking a look at the negative Twitter conversations surrounding #motrinmom demonstrates that Motrin is, in just a few short hours, facing a huge reputation disaster–initiated by the very audience Motrin hoped to target, “Mama Bloggers.”

Just look how fast this online reputation crisis came to a boil:

Now, it’s possible that there are many mothers that find the ad to be fun and light-hearted, but they’re the vocal minority–heavily out-voiced by those that took offense at the video.

What should Motrin do now? Perhaps follow my 3 steps for apologizing: be sincere, be transparent, and be consistent. Motrin needs to quickly apologize–before this reaches the mainstream media–and then do some damage control–perhaps find the most vocal detractors and bring them on board to quickly story-board an alternative video.

What can the rest of us learn from this? Never assume you know your target audience. Never assume that just because you’ve created something “viral” that the sentiment will always be positive. And, always build your social media campaign with some input from those who represent ALL your target audience.

(Thanks to NextInstinct for the tip)

  • Both my sisters have brand new babies. And they are both fanatics about the whole babywearing fad. Yes its a fad, and one that has a huge following. My sister even makes her own wraps that hold her baby close to her. I think its really odd that Motrin would choose to poke fun at a fad. i mean most marketers look for ways to ride on the backs of fads, not isolate your self from them!

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..Backlink Analysis Made Simple and Fun!

  • I suggest that with regard to the apology they follow some very simple advice

    Say “We are sorry”. Actually use those words and not “we apologise” or “we regret”. These other terms do not have the same impact.

    Say “we screwed up”

    Say what they are going to do to make it up to people

    [Edited by Andy]

  • @mike – that would be a good start.

  • @Joe Hall

    I can’t understand why you would call baby wearing a fad? Would anything we do irregardless of recent research that proves it’s benefits a fad? Would you call flossing your teach a fad? Lots of people do it these days, there is research to show that doing it benefits you, so is that a fad? I think baby wearing is here to stay for a good reason and it’s a good thing. Just because it’s new, doesn’t make it a fad.

    I doubt your sisters would agree with you either. I’m sure they have an understanding of what the benefits are and wear their babies for that reason, not because it’s a fad.

    Mary Wehrle’s last blog post..More on Motrin’s Bad-vertising Campaign

  • @JoeHall &/or Motrin: Babywearing is not a fad, a fashion, or or even “new”, it dates back thousands of years. See “The Continuum Concept” (or take an anthropology course at your local JC).

    It’s unfortunate that this campaign has trivialized the choices mothers make in raising their children. I think that’s the kicker and what has caused such backlash. The tone was patronizing, the content was factually wrong and, whats more, it belittled how/why women make the decisions they make regarding their kids. We make decisions on childrearing because of “fashion” or to look like “an official mom?”

    I don’t know how a company can overcome looking down their nose at customers. An apology is a good place to start, but I think those up in arms about this misstep might ask that Motrin investigate as much into parenting theory as parents themselves did before they speak on it in an ad campaign.

    Michelle MacPhearson’s last blog post..YouTube Sponsored Video How To

  • Kitty

    Wow. Some people are really over-reactive and horribly, horribly weepily sensitive, aren’t they? Just watched the ad and can’t really see anything that would make anybody go rabidly insane. Get a grip, people. Geez.

  • Marcia

    I am with Kitty – while the add isn’t good, it’s not offensive – maybe people should be less sensitive?

  • After 5 kids and having worn front packs and backpacks a long time before they became popular, this ad is just plain insulting.

  • BigDaddy

    The woman doing the voice over has never given birth – you can tell in her voice and a true mom would never agree to do it. The copy was written by a man. A woman/mother would never write “the baby” or “makes me look like an official mom”. This spot was written by an fat 45 year old ad guy who blames women for his misery. Had he simple went with the stress of a mom’s day, he would not be fired tomorrow!

  • Advil and other pain med companies should come out with a new baby sling or sponsor “baby slings for moms” campaign…ASAP.

  • Jordan McCollum

    My mommy credentials: I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old. From time to time, I’ve been known to wear by kids (one at a time, thankfully ๐Ÿ™‚ ). And yeah, I’ve even made my own baby carrier (a mei tai and a wrap, though I doubt that cutting off the last six feet of a long piece of fabric counts as “making”). I’m not passionate about babywearing, but there are comments here more “offensive” than this commercial.

    I think “Big Daddy” hit the nail on the head—this was written by someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about (the only time wearing a baby has caused me back pain was when my muscles were already ready to snap from carrying my child in arms for several hours), and they definitely would have done better to talk about universal, every day, real mom pains.

    Or maybe they should just make commercials about aspects of motherhood have less passionate adherents. Like . . . gerbils.

  • Edie B.

    This ad might have had fairly innocuous origins — some ad people brainstorming: “Hey, those baby slings look like they might hurt! Let’s capitalize on that.”

    But yes, the execution is clueless and condescending, snarkily implying: “Well, I guess babywearing is trendy these days, and even though I’m skeptical and think that other moms are doing it just to fit in, I guess I’ll have to do it so I won’t be ostracized!” I’m not sure it was written by a man, but if it wasn’t, it was likely written by a young marketing-major woman who’d rather be doing copy for Daily Candy.

    And I don’t think pointing out the ad’s cluelessness is overreacting or being “horribly weepily sensitive.” I mean, I’m not bursting into tears over here. I’m not a Twitterer or a mommyblogger; I’m just a mom who’s explaining why I think the ad sounds stupid and will likely alienate its intended audience. We’re still allowed to have rational discussions on the Internet, right?

  • Does it help or hurt Motrin that they’re discussing “hot moms” in their campaign’s online ads? Seems like they might be a little (lot?) out of synch with the tone and mindset of their audience … ?

    adverlicious’s last blog post..Amtrak “Really Fast Lane” 300×250

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  • zchamu

    Those who babywear are very passionate about it. Many are bloggers. Considering how a brand like Johnson and Johnson has been wetting themselves over MommyBloggers for years, it’s amazing how they could do something like this without even vetting it. One passionate babywearer in a focus group could have told them that this was a bad idea. It amazes me how J&J can be this blind again after the Camp baby fiasco.

  • BigDaddy

    I’ve watched it a few more times – trying to figure out why this became. I’m going out on a limb here, but the under tone is of disdain/contempt for motherhood. I’ve got 4 daughters and I’ve learned to truly appreciate my wife’s mom talent.

    True, this started as another bs session with some guys and maybe some non-moms sitting at a white board – but the guy directing the tone is hitting on something. It is a tone that we have seen from elitist – where a professed bright casts judgment on an issue, person or group using their craft. Here’s the fly-on-the-wall text:

    Fred: Come on people, it’s 4:45 and I’ve got to get to my pedicure! We need a new angle on pain relief. Who’s seen pain recently? I’m drawing a blank.

    Jane: Hey, those pouch things moms wear look painful – my older sister just had a baby and she is tired a lot – must be that thing.

    Fred: Gee Jane, for an intern, you sure have some great ideas! Let’s hope you stay single for a long time so we don’t lose you to maternity leave; it would be a waste of talent. Let’s go with the angle that this sling thing is faddy and you’re only doing it to fit in – so we hit rule number 1, show empathy. And, they give you all this pain – so Motrin to the rescue!

    Jane: Great stuff boss (thinking to self – Hmm, do I want kids? My sister sure enjoys little Anna! Well, I’ve got to toe-the-line and focus on my career; and, they listen to my ideas)

    Fred: At the nail shop getting feet prepped (thinking to self – Fred-o-boy, you still have it. Martha left you and is now pregnant. Who needs kids when you have interns eating out of your hands!)

  • @BigDaddy – LOL, that was some meeting!

  • Lesson for the day: passionate mothers don’t like it when you call their habits a fad.

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..Backlink Analysis Made Simple and Fun!

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  • Man, this topic has been off the charts. I really can’t help but think that in the end it’s going to be of benefit to the makers of Motrin. I suppose it’s going to all depend on whether to follow your approach or not. Big opportunity to capitalize on this entire situation.

    Michael D’s last blog post..Motrin Video Campaign May Cause Major Headache

  • cat

    they make the advertisment without trying to understand what realy nons need, just stupid marketing policy.

  • Ah sheesh – who cares – Motrin played their social media card well – do you think for one second if they had conformed to your “rules” that there would be so many blog post about “Motrin utilizes social media”?

    You’ve been had, and they deserve the “well played” award of 2008.

    Resume your normal programming – now.

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  • #motrinmoms ~ 1st Tweets ~ timeline & chart

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  • They really should have done some ‘website optimizer’ style A/B testing and try several options and see how their target audience reacted before venturing with this video.

    In truth I find that mothers (especially working mothers) are sick and tired of not being taken seriously and being pontificated upon. And this is not just a US phenomenon…

  • Andy,

    I am not sure who it represents. The real story here is not whether I agree; rather the conversation velocity and Motrin conversation snowball enabled by twitter.

    See a powerpoint slide here.

    Will be in my upcoming twitter book.


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  • Being honest about the reaction being a learning experience and apologizing will repair the damage. This however needs to be done repeatedly. One of course would assume that the ad has been withdrawn!

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Save Money on Medication

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  • Like Joe said, most marketers look for ways to ride on the backs of fads, not isolate your self from them!A lot of people always see the negative aspect without having a bigger picture.

    I guess Social media plays a big role in this.

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  • Cmon Andy,
    enormous backlash? where? some vocal crazies on Twitter is not an enormous backlash. Did you even watch the video? If you scope outside the vocal few you’ll see the bulk of people can’t believe how stupid this whole story is…and I’ll bet you money they sell MORE pain killers as a result of this. This is NOT a Wal-mart style PR disaster by any stretch of the imagination. This is a vocal minority pretending to represent the whole, nothing more, and you of all people should have been able to see this a mile away.

    Duncan Riley’s last blog post..Vicious Bambi 1: Maryland Lobbyist 0

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  • Agree that Motrin missed the mark on this by not understanding the demo targeted by its campaign. Mommybloggers are definitely an echo chamber who engage in narcissistic ramblings about parenthood, so an ad that implies that they don’t take 100% of their joy in life in being moms would fall flat. This ad is probably better targeted at the Park Slope type of mom who brings her stroller to the bar for drinks with her other mom friends.

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  • @Duncan – those “vocal crazies” have created quite a blog-storm and you can bet that those Tweets will end up as blog posts. If the mainstream media doesn’t catch on to this story, I will be shocked.

    It’s not about whether their claim is valid or not, it’s about the power of the social elite to make a lot of noise if a company doesn’t find favor with them.

    Lastly, Duncan, I personally have no dog in the race–other than it’s a hot topic, represents a reputation management disaster, and I don’t mind taking some of the traffic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • They should have conducted a focus group prior to releasing the video. Iโ€™m not a mother and even not yet a father, so I do not find this video offensive, however the research would have showed how the target audience reacted to the ad.

    Internet Entrepreneur’s last blog post..Severe Twitterdation

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  • @Duncan, it’s not about how crazy they are, but how vocal. Companies should be paying attention.

    A, don’t make fun of something people are REALLY passionate about unless you’re ready for your website to go down; and B, DO monitor social media sites on a Sunday afternoon and be prepared to respond.

  • Why all the fuss? Is it REALLY that offensive? Or is this a way for Twitters to mobilize to somehow show solidarity? Give me a break. If it’s a bad ad, boy – you could have picked a lot of other bad ads to pick on.

  • @smashad – it goes to show how unpredictable social media users can be. You’re probably right, there are likely ads out there that are much worse. It just so happens that the negative sentiment took hold on this one.

  • Wow.
    A lot of folk sure got irritated with a rather poor advert.
    Of course, in the UK, I’d just buy generic ibuprofen rather than pay for a marketed drug, but san fairy ann.

    It does smack a bit of a pile on – rather like the 2 complaints about BBC broadcasters Ross & Brand,/a> turned into 42,000 after the MSM got involved.

    Social media making an impact? In real terms, I suspect MSM have got it beaten 4 ways to breakfast.

    SteveEllwood’s last blog post..Giving customers what they want

  • I think a good deal of the backlash of this ad is really the issues with how our society views babywearing. Babywearing is not a fashion statement. I think every American should read “The Continum Concept” John Holt once said “If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book.”

    Kelly Tirman’s last blog post..The Motrin Ad that Twitter Killed.

  • Perhaps the twitterers over-reacted, but that should have been predicted. Imagine I’m at Motrin, I’m working on a campaign to get more moms to use Motrin.

    Am I unaware that moms can be hyper-sensitive when their parenting decisions are criticized? or questioned? or trivialized?

    It would be like asking someone have you gained weight — it will never be the start of a good interaction.

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  • JJ

    Just a thought as how they could make amends: Find a company that makes inexpensive but effective baby wraps or slings (or whatever they are called) and make sure they are good quality and do not actually cause pain. Get some samples and have real mothers test them to make sure there are no issues with them (they don’t cause pain, allow the baby to fall out or create some other PR disaster). Order a couple truckloads with a small but visible imprint, maybe something like “Complements of Motrin to help ease your pain” (assuming THAT would not be seen as offensive) and a web address. Offer these plus a Motrin coupon free of charge, maybe first announcing it on Twitter and then in whatever medium was used for the original ad. In the ad offering these, say something like “we are truly sorry for our previous ad, and to make amends we are offering this baby sling for free, along with a coupon, etc. etc.” (hey I don’t get paid to write ads). Offer to let some of the most vocal critics preview the campaign and get their reaction before rolling it out. Don’t know if it would work but maybe it would save their reputation. If successful, maybe they could continue to offer the wraps or slings to first-time mothers and mothers-to-be as part of an ongoing promotion.

    Hey, Motrin, did your highly-paid ad agency come up with anything as good as this idea? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @JJ I like it. I think that would be very smart.

    Wonder what they’ll actually do. Ignore it and hope it goes away?

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  • Jan

    This was really a stupid ad. I bet it was approved by a know-it-all ad ex too. The whole country seems to be run by these people — who just don’t have a clue.

  • Michael Lane

    In addition to the other comments, why are they calling baby-carrying a fad? Several of the cultural lines in our family have done this for generations (not so much the English). And while I’ve heard moms comment on general fatigue, I’ve never heard one complain about back pain when carrying a baby this way.

    Unless Motrin is trying to do a stupid ad on purpose, to get us all to talk about it.


    These so called irate moms need to get a life!! The was done in the same fashion as the Sex and the City theme, I don’t recall so many “moms” complaining about that show. You don’t need the product, don’t buy it. You got pain, then live with it or buy someting else. And furthermore, carrying your baby in a sling looks real intelligent. We carried our kids in our arms like the way nature intended. Not with some strap like a seat belt.

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  • Kelly

    I am a mother of 4 ages 2, 5, 7 and 9. These women need to get off the computer and spend more time doing productive things , like teaching your kids, or playing with them, or get a job and help support your family during these troubled times. But no, they spend all day blogging other women about issues that aren’t that important. And any mothers interested in scientific facts, yes closeness is important but eye contact is absolutely critical to your child’s well being so make sure you are balancing the sling with making enough eye contact with your child.

  • Claire

    That wasn’t offensive? How about this?

    “Putting your baby in a car seat seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory they’re great. There’s the bucket seat, the convertible, the booster. And, who knows what else they’ve come up with. Put the baby in the backseat, on the sides, in the middle, drive carefree. Supposedly it’s a real safe experience. They say that babies in carseats die less than others… Buy Motrin!”

    That’s basically what it sounded like to me. So, yeah, I was offended.

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  • I dont understand the issues here. The commercial was targeted at people who get back pains, from carrying babies. Not sure where in the commercial they said people who carries babies are bad people, LOL. Saying the ad simply targets “baby slingers” is not accurate.

    If you dont get back pains then why are you all up in a tizzy?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..President Barack ?Youtube? Obama

  • Gini

    Babywearing has been the norm for thousands of years in other countries. Only someone truly uninformed would call it “a fad.” It is a way of parenting that honors a baby’s biological and physiological need to be close to its mother. I had a 6 week old with colic and I had terrible back pain due to an injury. I don’t know how I could have survived anymore pain toting her…thank God I had a group of ladies (LLL) told me about slings and tought me how to wear them….AHHH relief….relief that motrin didn’t even it close to providing for that entire 6 weeks!

    You can buy a cute sling or wrap…you can match a different one with every outfit. Regardless, there are huge benefits to mother and baby. What a silly commercial….what a silly comment. I will personally be boycotting Motrin right along side Nestle.

    Much Love,

  • David Sampson

    Hey Motrin moms who are upset – MY ADVICE IS — GET A LIFE! Surely you have something better to do or a cause greater than this to get involved with. This is so trivial it is beyond all belief. As to the execs at MOTRIN, please ignore this stupid tempest in a teapot and go about your business as usual. Don’t apologize as the Beal suggests. Instead, do as Henry Ford would do – Never complain and never explain! And as for ANDY BEAL, do yourself a favor and find another line of work or endeavor. You clearly don’t have the balanced judgement necessary to separate the important from the trivial.

  • David, I agree that sometimes people need to get a life and find something important to bitch about, but your comments about Andy are way out of line. His line of work is specific to this. He handles reputation management and right or wrong Motrin definitely needs some control over the situation at hand.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..President Barack ?Youtube? Obama

  • @David Sampson – why the hate? You could have shared the exact same sentiment without being so ugly.

    You comment violates our comment policy, but I’m going to let it slide. That said, I hope you want make a repeat performance.

    @Jaan – thanks for the support.

    PS. Motrin did actually apologize and admitted the ad was a mistake.

  • Nick

    I totally agree. I cannot see how the ad was in any was offensive, and these baby-wearing advocates are taking themselves ENTIRELY too seriously.

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  • @ Michelle MacPhearson… let me see if I got this right?

    “Babywearing is not a fad, a fashion, or or even โ€œnewโ€, it dates back thousands of years.”

    Um… so it’s making a comeback?

  • Nick


    Why does the writer have to be fat? You say that like all fat people are mean worthless people! I find your comments more insulting then the Motrin commercial, and I think the Motrin commercial was done horribly and in bad taste.

  • Paul

    Please. Knock off the brainless, over-inflated language of “insulted” or “offended” by this ad. If you have the time to be offended by meaningless marketing misses like this, then you and your baby need to get a more serious life.

    Yes, the ad missed the fact that baby carrying itself is not a fad–not unless you start calling it “Darfur Fabulous”. What is faddish about it, is the foolish sense of fashion and status that is marketed to stroke the mom’s brain. Lame-oids like Motrin and others try to make the child more of an extension of her ego or status, rather than a *gasp* fresh person she is supposed to train, nurture, and educate to be a stable, functioning person that grows up to make good decisions on his or her own.

    My wife and I both carry our baby, either on our backs, facing forward (papoose style), or swaddled in front, facing us. Some centuries-old techniques with basic cloth and fabric work just great, thank you. Just because most people are too lazy to learn how to fold or tie knots doesn’t mean it’s smart to put your baby in a face-forward sling on the front. Yeah, that’s a *great* idea–dangle your child on your front, suspended by its crotch, feeling like it’s on the edge of a vertical drop thrill ride–for hours.

    Get over yourselves, and your self-absorbed outrage, over a lousy web commercial for a pain pill.

  • This story is now old and tired and comments are turning negative, so I’m closing them.

    Thanks to all that provided constructive input!

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