Archive - Nov 17, 2008

Making Sense of #motrinmoms

Recently, Motrin created an advertisement which started off with “Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. In theory, it seems like a great idea.” It continues with, “Supposedly it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the bod tend to cry less than others, what about me?” The voice-over goes on to say the pain is worth it because “it totally makes me look like an official mom so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.” All of this is part of Motrin’s trademarked campaign slogan, “We feel your pain”.

Mommy bloggers were in an uproar and it was the top topic on Twitter for much of the weekend. This has resulted in a predictable backlash with people asking if that many people can have PMS on the same day or we there wasn’t more outrage about a bill to combat child pornography barely passed.

I’m not an ad exec, nor a psychologist, but I have a few different thoughts to share on this. First, I should note that the doctors with one of the highest premiums for malpractice insurance is obstetricians. People will put up with a lot of pain, but if you mess with their kids, well there is an old saying that Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. Well, there is a much worse fury, that of parent whose feels that someone or something is getting in the way of them nurturing and protecting their offspring.

Another tack on this is this whole, “we feel your pain.” Have you ever tried to comfort someone who is suffering? Perhaps they are simply depressed. Perhaps they are morning the loss of a loved one. Perhaps they are suffering from some other type of grief. Telling that person that you know exactly what their feeling, or suggesting they should just take a pill and snap out of it; not only is that not particularly effective, it can be down right dangerous.

So yes, it would be great if the outrage and indignation of #motrinmoms could be redirected to outrage and indignation about our broken health care system, about poverty, and issues of child care, and many other related issues, but mocking a mother’s parenting choices hits closer to home than any of this.

Now, let’s take another step back and look at this in terms of what is going on in advertising, marketing and society. Last year, I attended a couple advertising and marketing conferences where the speakers dismissed Twitter as being inconsequential. Motrin has already started sending out apology emails. The website is down. Many hypothesize that it won’t be back up until they get through their crisis meeting this morning.

Whether or not you believe that a lot of people should or shouldn’t have gotten pissed off about the advertisement, a lot of people did get pissed off, and I’ve always thought that a number one rule of advertising and marketing was to not piss off your customers.

Beyond that, the customers are well connected thanks to sites like Twitter and various mommy blogging sites. Smart advertising checks to see how the ad will play with a focus group before releasing it into the wild. Really smart advertising understands that media is a 24/7 phenomenon and you need people standing by to address a crisis as it happens.

In the old days, you could do that by having a public relations person staying in touch with traditional media outlets. Things have changed. Now, you need community savvy people staying in touch with online communities, like Twitter. Hollywood2020 has a report about contacting the ad agency responsible for the debacle and no one at the ad agency even know about the online storm.

Stepping even further back, the choices we make about how we parent are all part of the culture wars, and at least one blog has started talking about this as another skirmish in these wars. This is another aspect worth following.

So, why am I so interested in this? This is a fascinating study in the role of social media. It is fascinating to watch how this traverses the Motrin website, twitter, blogs, YouTube and on into traditional media. It will be a case study for years to come, and you can participate right now.

I did my part. Regular readers of my blog will have seen my parody of the Motrin ad. If not, scroll down and take a look.

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