#MotrinMoms: From Twitter to the NY Times in 24 hours.

Katja Presnal’s Motrin Ad Makes Moms Mad

Motrin’s “viral” video making fun of babywearing mothers — timed for the start of International Babywearing Week — has, much to their PR firms amazement, led to a backlash.  As Allyson Kaplan’s Motrin’s Pain: Viral Video Disaster on Fast Company’s Radical Tech describes:

The viral video worked in the sense that it went viral but not in the way the marketers of Motrin were hoping for. Just hours after the campaign launched moms began blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook updates about how offensive the new Motrin campaign is to mothers. Women were so angered by the video that it became one of the most popular subjects tweeted about this weekend on Twitter. Talk about a PR disaster. Over 100 blogs featured headlines such as “Motrin Makes Moms Mad” to “Motrin Giving Moms a Headache”.

Tweets on Twitter are flying across the screen by the second using the hashtag #motrinmoms. Tweets read “RU FREAKING KIDDING ME? So many things wrong with that I don’t know where to start,” said @thecouponcoup. “I am shocked by that Motrin ad. Count me in on the boycott,” said @blondeblogger. “They totally do not get us at all,” said @DealSeekingMom.

Gosh.  Who’d a thunk it?

Heather Chapman’s Moms outraged over Motrin’s new ad on The Mother Tongue has a nicely-highlighted version of the script*:

I mean, in theory it’s a great idea….
Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience.
Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom.
And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.

Sarah Evans Motrin Moms: Social Media Fail Whale on Mashable, Andy Beal’s Motrin Faces Twitter Headache Over New Video Campaign on Marketing Pilgrim (with great comments including BigDaddy’s description of the likely “creative” process) have some good commentary on this as well.

Strangely, a lot of guys (and some women as well) don’t see why moms might be offended by this.  Dave Winer, for example, posted repeatedly on Twitter, calling the reaction “nonsense”, “inappropriate”, and “stupid” before looking like a tired, crazy, official guy line by pointing out that “men are victims of sexist ads too”.**  Whatever.

And I’m not sure if Amber Bryer-Wotte’s Profiles In Overreaction: #MotrinMoms on Culture11’s LadyBlog is typical of cultural conservative reactions,*** but I found it equally revealing.  For example:

Another complaint is that the voiceover in the ad says wearing a baby sling makes her feel like “an official mom.” This too is the source of much outrage.  But for pete’s sake, I’m 29 and I still don’t feel like an official grown up, much less can I conceive of myself as an official mom….

Here’s what bugs me most: If you’re on twitter, you’re a.) probably a youngish mom and therefore probably share some of my own insecurity about being a grown up and parenthood and b.) pretty clearly someone who wants to be considered trendy.  Get over yourself.

A dad in the comments helpfully adds “Unfortunately it impossible to not piss of moms, bloggers, or women with the hormones that result from pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding. If you acknowledge them you upset them. If you ignore them you upset them.”  Nice.

More positively, Lisa Belkin’s Moms and Motrin, in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, quotes advice from Peter Shankman, who she describes as “a public relations all-star who knows everything and then some about new media”:

I’m not siding with Motrin. They messed up, granted. I’m ok with that. Companies mess up all the time. They fix the problem, and it usually doesn’t make the radar screen. The problem is, Motrin happened to mess up at the expense, and in the face of, one of the most vocal, quickest-to-blog, “strongest-to-band-together-and-form-one-opinion-like-the-Borg” collectives out there – The Mommy-Blogging community.

Now I am NOT slagging on Mommy-Bloggers. Not in the slightest. Nor, am I saying they’re over-reacting to the commercial, which, by rights, was stupid and patronizing. What I AM saying though, is that Motrin will pay a MUCH bigger price, as opposed to if they’d messed up in front of say, “Construction-Worker-Bloggers.” Mommy-Bloggers are not a voice to be messed with, probably because they’re one of the most clearly identifiable voices on the web.

Indeed. Companies do repeatedly “mess up” with ads that disrespect and condescend to women.  While Peter might be okay with that, others aren’t.  Using social networks like Twitter, communities like “Mommy-bloggers” can respond swiftly and firmly — and, as the examples I’ve linked to illustrate, quickly get coverage beyond “the usual suspects” and into tech, marketing, and mainstream media blogs.   Other pro-woman, feminist, and womanist activists are presumably watching and learning.****

Lisa’s NY Times post also has an update from Kathy Widmer, a VP of Marketing at McNeil (the Johnson and Johnson subsidiary that makes Motrin), apologizing and expressing regret — and apparently this has gone out to the various bloggers as well.  Motrin and their PR agency may well be able to react effectively enough to keep this from permanently damaging their brands … we shall see.

In any case, whether or not guys land cultural conservatives like it, this is a powerful testimony to the power of social networks for rapid action.

From Twitter to the New York Times in about 24 hours.

All hail the power of Motrin Moms!


* Update, 1:15 p.m.: actually it seems that the highlighted script was first published by Barb on Perfectly Natural Photography — in a post that also has a very good link roundup.

**  Thanks for sharing, Dave.  I must have missed the memo appointing you as the arbiter of what moms should and shouldn’t care about.  Y’know, at some point, people are likely to start asking whether your sexism introduces biases as well on other topics where you also see yourself as an expert.  But I digress.

*** Update, 1:55 p.m: Oops.  While Culture11 focuses on cultural conservatives, Amber’s a libertarian; see the discussion in the comment thread.  Apologies to Amber for the misdescription.

**** I hope civil liberties activists are as well: Twitter Vote Report also got traction with Momsrising and other Moms who blog, and as Motrin’s headache indicates, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Originally published November 2009 as “MotrinMoms: From Twitter to the NY Times in 24 hours.  All hail the power of Mommybloggers!”.  In February I just discovered PunditMom (aka Joanne Bamberger’s) Don’t call me a mommyblogger on ZDNet, with a great explanation of why “mommyblogger” comes across as an insulting term.  My apologies to anybody I offended by my use of the term, and I’ll avoid it in the future.  I’ve edited it a few times since to remove other lingering uses the term.