Motrin, Media Mamas and Twitter Tirades: Marcom Blunders Redux

“When will they ever learn? When will they eeeeeeeever learn?”

With apologies to Pete Seeger this media mama is having a déjà  vu moment blinking back to the corporate missteps of Target underestimating the social media sphere and choosing not to acknowledge “alternative media’s” customer concerns.

Same song, second verse, only instead of ME inadvertently setting the blogosphere atwitter, it was my colleague Jessica Gottlieb of Eco Child’s Play who sent a ‘Tweet’ on Twitter that blew the whistle on the snarky Motrin ads poking fun at parents “supposedly bonding” by using baby carriers, making them  “totally look like an official mom.”

The absurdly patronizing copywriting (ad/video here) is trying hard to be ‘hipster’ and offending everyone in the process…“Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion…I mean, in theory it’s a great idea. There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they’ve come up with.” Ahem. They? THEY? That would be “you” ad agency copywriter. And if I wanted to be generous, I’d add ‘or me’ since that’s part of my background as well.

Regardless, two thousand “Tweets” (and I’m sure many headaches for Motrin later) I picked up the phone and called Jessica Gottlieb in L.A. to get her side of the story which had permeated every wired-orifice of the internet social sphere…

“Jessica? This is Amy…I’m extending All Things Girl week on Shaping Youth, and even though this “Motrin Mom” kerfluffle is not limited to women/girls, since you started this firestorm, I wanted to get your take on exactly happened before it turns into another hype-fest like I endured with the Target debacle.

So first off, why do you think this Motrin ad offended so many, so fast, and landed on moms so hard?

What was the timing between the ad airing and the backlash and video responses?

And moreover, if you were Motrin, what could you do to make amends and how?” (Note: Many have said the response was timely and appropriate as the site came down pronto when the furor hit)

Jessica Gottleib: Well, first of all, it was mean-spirited, not funny and not just anti-woman, but anti-baby, anti-family…This is a tender time, a meaningful time…you don’t start taking cracks at new moms, there should be some sort of limitation that says, “not in the first year”…no picking on this audience whatsoever, they’re adjusting to too many new things as it is. Unfair. Not cool.

I’m not being prickly here, I write for National Lampoon, I’ve said “farewell to my youth in a satirical ode,” I’ve made fun of myself a million times over, but this is different…it’s patronizing and mean. As far as I’m concerned, you only have permission to make fun of yourself. New moms are off-limits.

Second, every marketing executive should have a Google alert keyed to their company name, website, e-mail, the works so that the minute those Google spiders started picking up a feed, they could respond. If they would’ve just answered and replied with a genuine response or sincerely apologized it wouldn’t be on the front page of the most talked about live chat items right now.

Instead, there are video responses, mad mommy bloggers everywhere, YouTubes showing the Tweets even maternity tee-shirts out already on CafePress! Motrin’s gonna have a tough Monday…

Shaping Youth: Maybe they were going for empathy and missed the mark; but seriously? They never apologized? At all?

Jessica Gottleib: Not to me. I saw a form letter apology posted on a bunch of other blogs, but even though I’d sent an e-mail through their form on their site I was NEVER sent out an apology!

I found out from other people that they’d send out an e-blast of some sort…I saw screenshots on other blogs.

Shaping Youth: That’s so weird! The same thing happened to me with Target! I’d heard through OTHER bloggers that they’d sent out an ‘oops’ mea culpa en masse, but they never sent one to me! What IS it about corporate marketers that they don’t go back to the original source to make amends? (It reminds me of a child that pushes a broken cup to the back of the cupboard in ‘they’ll find out sooner or later’ mode, instead of owning it like a ‘grownup!’)

So what would YOU do now if you were Motrin?

Jessica Gottleib: Well, I heard they’re pulling the ad. The site’s been down for awhile…But if I were them, I’d probably brand 50,000 baby slings with the Motrin logo and give them out free to anyone who wants them…

I dunno, what could that cost? Maybe $200K or so?

My kids are 7 and 10 so they’re big… But for all my neighbors, girlfriends, sisters, and friends that ARE baby-wearing, there was nothing right about that message..

(Amy’s note: this is also the inaugural of ‘Int’l Babywearing week’ so I almost feel sorry for these guys trying to attempt a tie-in and shooting themselves in the foot; homework, people, homework! Know your market! Know your tenor and tone!)

As Jessica said in her Eco Child’s Play post:

“Motrin (Johnson & Johnson) didn’t hurt my feelings specifically but they broke the #1 rule of comedy and satire. Don’t pick on the weak. New mothers are fragile. Motrin has proven, irrevocably that they don’t understand that Mothers are the ones in the grocery stores.”

“Mothers clip coupons and build brands with discussion. Mothers get together and uplift one another. So when you pick on a few new mommies, you get all of us. The #MotrinMoms of Twitter will never buy Motrin again. Babywearing is best for baby and companies that support our babies get our dollars.” –Jessica Gottlieb on Eco Child’s Play

Ouch. Here’s the full transcription of the Motrin copy courtesy of Barb, (important for those of us who are copywriters and a bit incredulous that our industry would be so dense for allowing this tonality to weave through client approval) and here’s a rather large link list on a newfound blog I’m partial to by the name alone: “New Old Moms Club” (for moms over 40)

She writes, “I am a Mom of four girls. What makes my situation unique is that I am also a “New Old Mom.” Being just a little bit older, my husband and I definitely have a few more aches and pains then I did when I was younger. The one thing we would never consider a pain or a burden is the bonding that experienced with all of our children carrying them in slings and backpacks.”

Link List Ongoing Via “New Old Mom”

The Crunchy Domestic Goddess

LadyBug Landings

Kelby Carr

Shake The Salt

Aloha Arleen

Mom Fuse

Eco Child’s Play

Perfectly Natural Photography

Jessica Gottlieb

Magic and Mayhem

Just Add Color

Instinct Parenting

The Smart Mama

Land of Loving

Parenting Help Me

Organic Mania

Single Mom Melt Down

Cutie Booty Cakes

Buzz Marketing Daily

Keep It Classy Jen

PMKU-Pamela Kramer

Problem Solving Mom

Leopard Spots

Super Momz

Parental Guidance Required

WAHM-Cafe

Dryer Buzz

Orient Lodge

Suburban Oblivion

Heather @About.com/Baby Products

Merry Cricket

Midget Invasion

Small Dots

Trail Mix

Truthful Politics

Mercantile Spark

Califmom

A Flickr Group

Gohn Family at Gohn Crazy

A Cafe Press Shop

Instinct Parenting

5 Minutes For Mom

Twitteromics

Thaden Pierce

TJ Sondermann

Mama’s Nest

Wallet Pop

Endless Forms

A Little Bit Of Green

Frogger: The Hoppings Of My Mind

Mama Divas

Adventures In Crunchy Parenthood

Most Traveled Mom

Skimbaco Lifestyle

Thought Industry

Just Our Thoughts

Moonmette’s Mama Mentor Blog

Wife and Mommy

Atlanta Lovings

Windershins To Wednesday

Natural Pregnancy Project

Jen’s Genuine Life

Crazy Adventures In Parenting

The Many Hats

Prairie Mama

Motherhood Uncensored

It All About The Hat

Moms-101

Twitter Maven

Mums The Wurd

Conscious Breast Feeding Connections

On Living By Learning

Bamboo Women

I Could Cry But I Don’t Have Time

Media Caffeine

Automatic Moms

Marketing Pilgrim

Hollywood 2020 (for a different perspective and Motrin’s reaction)

Pistascio-Laura Fitton (great post from a marketing perspective)

Mashable (another PR view with response tactics)

Peter Shankman (a great review)

Motrin, you might want to ‘crowdsource’ the Twitter MotrinMoms next round.

I hear they have a lot to say. (um…guys do too) Now back to All Things Girl extended for an extra week on Shaping Youth to highlight some positive picks. (besides news of Libby Lu and CosmoGirl biting the dust in one year!) 😉

Motrin Ad Copy Transcribed Via Barb, per Jessica @ Eco Child’s Play (links above)

“Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion.

I mean, in theory it’s a great idea.

There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch.

And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free.

Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience.

They say that babies carried close to the bod tend to cry less than others.

But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don’t?

I sure do!

These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back?!

I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my kid.

Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom.

And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.”

Update Monday Morning: New Mainstream Media Links Per Sandra Foyt On Living By Learning (an ironically apt name for this incident, right up there with our new global blogger book to benefit Variety the Children’s Charity:) Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It?

Sandra sums the outcome well, too:

“Twitter Parent Power is almost frightening.  Already, this situation has hit mainstream media and the ad campaign is being dismantled.  Many will be analyzing this case study and deriving lessons for the future. To answer my previous questions, I think it’s safe to say that marketing experts will be observing closely the networking power of consumers in the future.”

MSM:
Moms and Motrin (NYT) http://spedr.com/95za
Motrin’s Email Response http://spedr.com/4zio
Collection of Motrin Moms Blogs http://spedr.com/i6tu

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.  ~John Powell”

I agree with Sandra, I think this one will be another ‘teaching moment’…but truly, folks, how many must we have?

Motrin Moms Twitter Fest Music Montage By Katja Presnal at LadyBugLandings.com

Visual credits: Jessica Gottlieb on EcoChild’s Play screenshot, Mashable Motrin Moms article

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Comments

  1. I saw that ad while flipping though one of the monthly magazines and it totally floored me – in a bad way. The last line was so condescending. How annoying I thought — the baby wars have just been upped another ante, as in, suffering (and what you wear) can make you a better mommy.

  2. This is one of those cases where the subliminal message was as important as the direct insult itself. As at least one blogger pointed out, the above text was accompanied by strategically placed cuckoo sounds.

    I’d say there was a lot of not-thinking going on. What concerns me now, is that the take home message may be to merely have media execs prepare for crisis management. What I’d like to see as well is more of an effort to promote a positive exchange, and understanding, of the target audience.

  3. Spot on as always, Sandra, I think the ‘tone of the ‘tude’ is what got my attention the most, as if babies are ‘fashion statements’ or accessories and painting moms as shallow hormonal nutso basket cases didn’t help either. They deserve the backlash, imho, but moreover as you say…shoring up the flanks and mea culpas are not battlefield tactics not long term peace-making solutions. Marketers need to involve the audience from the get go and at least do their homework as to what’s on the minds of so many…

    Gosh, get a Twitter account and hang out on the GNO night, right? Not hard. Free, fun, and community building. (Still can’t wait to get in there…just don’t have the time yet!)

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and as always, my question is ‘now what?’ What can that brand do to gain back trust, or is it lost forevermore?

    What can we as parents do to use this media to give voice to policy positions and large scale media and marketing changes by uniting in community to be a voice that’s heard loud and clear, “this is not okay, people.” Sure would come in handy with the early sexualization cues, negative pop culture relational aggression and such, n’est ce pas?

  4. @ Andrea, I think your word ‘condescending’ is the right one…it does nail that whole sacrificial lamb/suffer on behalf of the baby/you’re never enough as a mom or a woman offensive drivel quite well.

  5. Plus all the nasty, disrespectful tweets and posts about #motrinmoms themselves — the ones who took the time to complain — is really bringing me back to the Target days. Hope Jessica G. handles it better than I did!

  6. I checked in with her on that, unlike the two of us, she’s used to the media attention, so able to deflect much better…plus, she ‘lit the match’ (like my post, and your TV interview did) but some of the other #motrinmoms actually produced media in response, so my guess is media won’t check with the ‘original sources’—since they sure didn’t with me (or with you, did they?) I sure never received any form note or corp. response. Did you? –Amy

  7. Though I had ‘no axe to grind’ with Target, I’m STILL getting criticism that I should’ve ‘run with it’ to use the media as a tool/distribution channel to get the objectification message out there instead of enabling the conversation to veer ‘off target’ into the “dissing the blogosphere” alternative media bit…

    Personally, I have no regrets on taking the high road, as a defensive fuss-fest is NOT what I want Shaping Youth as a ‘brand’ to be known for…speaking out, yes, spinning in the Twitter du jour, no… Not interested in being a ‘one-topic-wonder’—our conversations are much more multi-faceted.

    Plus, as a nonprofit, we’re too small and don’t have the firepower to dedicate to such fights…I’d rather keep that with the advocacy orgs and use our platform as a bellwether and sounding board for logic and reason…(That said, I also know that others who welcome the limelight might be better at that job, as I’m quite media shy and prefer to remain in the low key/keyboarding arena to protect my privacy and prevent ‘Kathy Sierra-ism; been there, done that, not comfy)

  8. I’m weathering the storm just fine

    I think others are getting the brunt of it, okay with me, I have no axe to grind.

  9. Glad to hear it Jessica… It really IS a time sink when the put downs and trolling starts flinging about the slinging 😉

    Totally agree with that new parents particularly should be ‘hands off’ as well as ‘hands free’…Sling away, babywearers! (also glad to hear you’re taking the high road; always recommend it even when the backlash/reverb gets muddy) Hang tough!

  10. Nice work on getting the whole story in one place, Amy. More than anything this mess is making me miss my baby wearing days. I actually cried when I passed down my fave front carrier. It is in very good mom and baby hands, though and I’ve seen the new bonding in action. And I’m finally on Twitter, thanks to Jessica.

  11. Well Amy, my inbox is crammed with words you usually hear in the drunk tank.

    How will I ever thank you for your wonderful phone call, for your cautionary tale? *sigh* It could’ve really bothered me but I realize they’re the same insecure people who picked on you and that they’ll soon swarm around some other woman.

    Probably because their Mommies never held them and they didn’t go to therapy.

    I am truly inspired by the women of the web.
    You all uplift me.

  12. Oh, Jessica, I was hoping you’d make it through unscathed…you sounded much tougher than I via phone; but it’s grand to see your sense of humor is fully intact.

    Lisa Ray (Corporate Babysitter/PEM see link above)endured this onslaught too when she spoke out ON TV in the Target turmoil since her hometown was their HQ; so at least you didn’t have that to contend with (or did you?)

    Point is, there will always be someone with a sneering ‘get a life’ air of superiority lambasting the outspoken who dare to say, ‘hey, this is not okay.’

    You’ll be told you need to focus on ‘real’ problems like the economy, world strife, fires in L.A. whatever, but without those in society who dare to go to the mat, we might as well all be in a perpetual ‘choke hold’ of silence or full ‘take down’ defeat. (sexism, racism, and every other ‘ism’ that people roll their eyes at and belittle as inconsequential)

    I’m reminded of the quote:

    “All philosophy in two words, – sustain and abstain.” ~Epictetus

    And my other one learned from our ‘tarzhay’ tragedy?

    “If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.”
    ~Toni Morrison

    Not trying to be yoda here, just speaking from the lessons learned from my naive/gullibility thinking everyone would ‘get it’ from the get go (target+crotch=not a smart move) or in your case: cuckoo clock fashionista mockery+baby-wearing hormonal airheads=angry mama Twitterfluence!)

    Gotta call it like you see it, ya know?

    And @Tara…I long for those days too, especially in these teen years beginning when it feels like soooooooooo long ago and yet, simultaneously, as if it were yesterday. sigh. Hold ’em close, ladies and gents…Precious times. Wear ’em well.

  13. Jessica is absolutely right — the swarm of insults will move on to another woman soon. What really was disheartening about the experience was the realization that misogyny is alive, well, and has internet access. I thought we’d come a longer way, baby.

    Hang in there Jessica — and everyone else who’s getting the same treatment.

  14. Motrin certainly had the fury of Mom’s on their necks. I hadn’t realized part of the problem was their focus on Mom’s “Wearing their baby” to be in fashion. You mention, “the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch.”

    Interestingly, back when I was a baby this must have been in fashion since I have many photos of my Mom carrying me around in a side sling. I’ve loved the fact my son wore his babies on a front sling. So Motrin was out of touch with history and the fact that Dad’s often are close to their babies, too.

    And there’s more. In Canada, both the Mom and Dad can have 6 month leave from work. My nephew did this and very much enjoys carrying little April around on a front sling.

    So Motrin gave a rather skewed picture, that’s for sure. Bet there’s lots of Moms and Dads who won’t be buying Motrin.

  15. Thanks for the history reminder, Robyn, yes, it’s been a cultural bonding ‘given’ for decades on a global scale (just check out the Int’l Babywearing site links above near the visual) but I’m fascinated by Lisa and Jessica’s comments in terms of it ‘moving on to another woman’ soon and the misogynistic culture…

    Personally, I feel we’ve gone ‘backwards’ in many ways (objectification, media messaging, etc.) and so I’d like to hear from other women (particularly those with daughters) if they feel this #MotrinMoms reverb is misogyny vs. miscreants…

    In other words, would the flamethrowing and incivility hit as hard across gender lines, or is this another ‘moms are maniacs’ portrayal framed in ‘tempest in a teapot’ mode yet again (which is usually the media default when anyone dares to raise an incredulous voice/question/concern as it bumps up against pop culture brash and crass retorts…a far bigger problem than misogyny alone I fear, as it’s multi-faceted and runs deep into the vein of human conduct)

    But then, maybe it IS a misogyny focus dominating the matrix here…What are your real world experiences, ladies?

    I’m fairly well buffered having spent my career self-employed popping in and out of work environs as more of an observer than a participant in the machinations, so I don’t feel I’m a strong bellwether for the realities of those that ‘eat their young’ in high stakes settings…whether it’s male or female behavioral backlash of office politics and such. Fill me in?

  16. What unfortunate marketing! Glad the company saw the error of their ways, even if it took a lot of people speaking out for them to realize it.

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