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Responsible Marketing

Motrin feels the pain of a social media mommy mob

By November 18, 2008March 17th, 202110 Comments

You might have heard about the recent uproar over a new Motrin ad targeting mothers. If you have already formed an opinion on the topic, skip the video below.

Otherwise, take a look, and try to be as objective as possible.

The response

Paul Banas estimated that in 48 hours the Motrin ad resulted in:

  • Over 100,000 views on YouTube for both their ad, along with all the video blog responses to their ad
  • Number 1 (motrin) and Number 2 (motrinmoms) topic trends on Twitter, according to Twitter Search.
  • Over 8,000 individual blog posts about the ad and Motrin itself according to Technorati.

While the responses have ranged from “who cares?” to “boycott Motrin!” most of the buzz has been negative:

Motrin Makes Moms Mad, is a simple video montage of Twitter quotes and images of mothers and their babies in slings:

In A Motrin Mom Mob? Beverley Cornell takes a different view:

The way I see it, the purpose of the ad was to help the average mom who has back pain. If you don’t like it don’t buy it – why badmouth the product so viciously? No moms or babies were hurt in the making of the commercial.

What I don’t understand is where are all these caring, united voices are when talking about education, poverty, the economy and other topics that have far more impact and can truly make a difference for themselves and their children’s lives? And such outrage, as is it now expected for companies to have a 24-7 monitoring presence, even on weekends, for everything, and then get told “they’re not listening” when they’re probably taking care of their families on a Saturday or Sunday?

Ultimately, the power of social media can be good, bad, or in this case even ugly. Whichever way you dice it …everyone is talking about Motrin around the water cooler today.

I ask you this…what should we really be mobilizing for or against today?

As of yesterday morning, Motrin made the decision to pull the ads and made a public apology on their website.

Motrin ad apology+enlarge

The apology has been panned by many—most notably Seth Godin—for it’s formulaic and impersonal tone.

Lessons learned from the Motrin social media debacle

  • Know your audience. If this ad was tested among mothers in social media circles, something went awry.
  • You must be message responsible. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with the key message, but a few phrases in the script (“wearing your baby seems to be in fashion,” “supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience,” etc.) and the snarky delivery made for an ad that talked down to the target audience.
  • Get real or go home. To many, the ad and apology lacked authenticity—the attempt to create a personal tone felt forced, or worse, fake.
  • The discussion will happen, with our without you. For most companies, participation in social media is no longer optional.
  • Social media is 24/7/365. Conversations don’t just happen during business hours. This brouhaha exploded before Motrin had a chance to respond.
  • In social media, the mob rules. There’s already a long list of brands that have been punk’d by social media.

So, did you find the ad offensive? Why or why not?

Can Motrin redeem itself? How?

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. . .
Update: Here’s a spoof of the Motrin ad, via

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Liz says:

    This is silly. I defend Motrin. Great post though- I’ll be linking to it in my blog post about it. 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    Hi, Patrick … thanks for the summary (which I’ve added to my post on the subject) .

    That said, I have to take issue with the headline phrase: “mommy mob”. Yes, I know people talk about “mommy bloggers” — but the use of this noun sounds dismissive in your post. And the reaction was not a mob. (Search Blogpulse for Motrin – this peak is nothing like the one at the end of September.)

    Moreover, “mob” is not a neutral noun in American rhetoric; it has a lot of negative connotation like “mindless” and “emotional” and “kneejerk.”

    Food for thought, I hope.

    Oh. And yes I found the ad condescending.

  • Kathy,

    Thanks for your message. The use of “mob” was intentional – I co-opted from the title of the counterpoint message with a goal of getting a rise. My post leans a bit on the side of the mommy mob here so I hope I’ll be forgiven.

    Perhaps quotes around “mommy mob” would delivered the point that it’s not my phrase.

    Love the Motrin spoof on your blog post. I’m going to have to share that. 🙂

  • Tracy Adams says:

    VO: Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion.

    Gag! Wearing a baby has never been a fashion statement, it’s a matter of convenience.

    VO: Supposedly it’s a real bonding experience.

    Upon first hearing and seeing this drivel animate across the screen I thought the narrator wasn’t a mother, then I thought, “if she is a mother, she’s cold, and uncaring and doesn’t know how to bond with a child.”

    VO: What about me?

    Wah! Woe is me. Everyone is paying attention to my baby, no one notices my pain.

    VO: Do moms who wear their babies cry more than those who don’t?

    Where do they come up with this gibberish? Twelve years ago, both my wife and I carried our daughter around in a baby Bjorn carrier –not once did either of us cry from doing so. And we have never witnessed anyone balling their eyes out from too much shwinging.

    VO: 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.

    Duh! Is she a lover of sadomasochism or is she still referring to the baby carrier? And like, oh my God! Did she just say, “totally?” Gag me with a spoon you valspeaking nitwit. If you’re more worried about how you look to the rest of us, please have your most untubular tubes tied.

    VO: And so if I look tired and crazy people will understand why.

    It sounds like the cuckoo in you needs to start your official mom day off with a big bowl of Motrin Puffs (available in 32 colors and flavors) –guaranteed to make you look happy inside and out. Not doing so will only discourage people from procreating after seeing your haggard body and unhinged mind in public.

    Cuckoo for Motrin Puffs! Cuckoo for Motrin Puffs! Cuckoo for Motrin Puffs!

  • Tracy Adams says:

    I’m cuckoo for Motrin Puffs and BIG bOObs!

  • Great post Patrick.
    Every company can make mistakes in their ad decisions as you’ve highlighted in many of your past posts.
    I think that the lesson to be learnt is that pharmaceutical and medical companies should not get too involved in social media. Their involvement in social media makes them loose their ‘medical expert’ status. Lastly, they clearly created a Twitter account called MotrinMom which, in my opinion, is very unethical! I would not tolerate anyone trying to subconciously sell me drugs through Twitter or any social media.
    Other pharmaceutical and medical companies do not get involved for those reasons and clearly, Motrin has experienced how such issues can backfire and make them loose all their credibility and expert status.

  • moon says:

    Wow. Honestly, I don’t understand the ferocity of the moms. I guess it is the way the ad put it. The businessman’s creed is “Find a need and fill it”, they were obviously exploring a possible need, but they missed the mark in how they went about proposing to fill the need by calling baby carrying fashionable, and describing baby carrying moms as insane and crazy from all the pain and sacrifice they make for their kids. Maybe they just plain made light of it too much, tried too hard to approach it in a humorous manner. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what it feels like to wear a baby on your front of back until it’s 30 pounds or so, but I do wear a back pack for shopping, and I stopped using purses and shoulder bags a long time ago because it throws my neck and back out of alignment and causes me back pain and migraines. I think the basic concept and exploration of a potential need is sound, but their presentation was off, considering how mad those moms are, I guess their presentation was really off. Maybe instead of trying to be humorous about it, what they should have done is found real moms who carry their babies around like that, and just had them talk about how they feel about carrying their babies around, and how it affects their backs sometimes and what they use to make themselves feel better after a day of wearing a baby, if they had used real moms expressing their real thoughts about it, and how Motrin fits in there, it might have gone over better, but apparently moms watching their attempt to be humorous about it really got insulted.

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