Why So Upset? Maybe Someone Needs a Motrin …

Over the past weekend, Motrin began to run this ad on its site and it has caused a major uproar throughout the blogoshpere and all over Twitter.

It culminated with an executive from Motrin, who happens to be a mom of 3 children herself, writing a personal letter of apology to @Katja Presnal, who I believe started the whole uproar. (I should mention that @katjapresnal is a dear friend who I hope will not be pissed off by this post.)

Patricia Handscheigel, who is not even a mom by the way, noticed the outrage at the Motrin ad and was shocked at the hubbub created around it when nary a mom tweeted about a recent bill to combat child pornography that barely passed.  Patricia posted a video about child pornography that I watched in shock.  I had no idea.  Now that IS something to get outraged about.

But, the Motrin ad?  Not so much.

I was a baby-wearing mom.  I even sold Maya Wraps because I loved them so much.  I carried my kids in slings til they were 4.  And, yeah, my back hurt sometimes.  And, sometimes I looked tired and crazy.  I could see how some good intentioned marketing team thought they were sympathizing with moms and laughing with us, not at us.  I mean do you really think that they intended to put down their target market?

And, if they didn’t intend to do it, why get all outraged before cluing them in on their error.  Then, if they ignore you, get outraged.  But, why come from outrage first?

What if, next time, instead of moving from standstill to outrage in 3 seconds flat, we all took a collective breath, and gave the benefit of the doubt?  Didn’t take it personally?  Read or re-read the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Want to be happy in life?  Don’t take anything personally, ever.

Honestly, I felt bad for the folks at Motrin.  They spent a pretty penny on this campaign you can be sure of that.  I’m a marketer and a business owner.  And sometimes I put my foot in my mouth too.  I hope the next time I do it (and surely there will be a next time) I can count on the caring compassion of other moms and business owners to give me the benefit of the doubt and not come at me with guns a-blazing ready to run me out of town on a rail.

Sorry Katja, I don’t agree. I still love ya though.

About these ads

32 Comments

Filed under Mom-a-rama

32 responses to “Why So Upset? Maybe Someone Needs a Motrin …

  1. To me the ad was mocking and snarky. I wear my baby for good and personal reasons while the ad, I felt, heavily suggested otherwise. While judgements are always made I do like to clear things up if I can, especially if the assumption is very wrong.

    I really appreciated the video Katja put together because it showed moms pay attention. Not all the comments in the video are crys of out rage but thoughts about PR and how campaigns can go wrong. Also when you read just a bit further past the video Katja gives wonderful ways for any company, not just Motrin, to improve and reach out to target audience. s.

    I think it is a shame that I never heard about the child pornoghraphy bill. I must say though I didnt hear about it from any other media source either. If I had surely I would have responded to that and would have tried to bring awareness to that as well. I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt and believe me.

  2. I’m afraid the long and not always glorious history of advertising has seen far worse ads than this one! There’s been thousands of ads that lack respect for children, race, woman, etc. Let’s save our energy for causes that are worth fighting for, such as protecting our children, indeed! The Motril ad will be forgotten in a few hours/days time, the abuse of children will go on for years!

  3. Mm, the old “you’re overreacting” proclamation mixed with the “there are bigger things to be worried about” canard. No, sorry, I’m not buying it.

    Motrin could have made the point that caring for a pre-mobile baby can lead to aches and pains in a way that didn’t specifically denegrate babywearing, its benefits, and the women (note, specifically women, babywearing fathers never mentioned) who engage in it.

    That a company as large as Johnson & Johnson (who owns the company that makes Motrin) allowed an ad like that to get through their multiple layers of marketing approval says that either everyone there is clueless or that they figured that nutty babywearing women – who are all apparently brainless trendoids – were an “okay” group to snark. That’s not okay.

    Is it an outrage on the level of child pornography? No. Should it be addressed just the same? Absolutely yes.

  4. Alexis, it’s almost comic to think that I could have started this kind of “uproar” alone and I could have gotten 100+ mommy bloggers to write an ad upset them, if there was no substance. I know you, and I know you are busy, but maybe next time before you blame someone of something, you actually check the facts what happened.

    It’s also almost comic that you left the link of this blog post to my blog to get more traffic to your blog, without actually reading my blog post.

    I didn’t take the ad personally, but as a marketing person I know a bad ad or bad PR when I see it. Do I ask everyone else’s opinion every time that happens? Probably not, but this time I did. The talk was already going on at twitter, moms were already writing blog posts, I simply asked what moms thought and I could collect people’s opinions on a video to be sent to Motrin.

    What I didn’t expect, nor encourage, that what I thought was going to be a 15 talk on twitter turned into something much bigger. But no wonder – the 15 minutes talk on twitter turned into over 150 answers from moms whose feelings were hurt. I simply did a video of mothers’ feelings – I didn’t create this – I simply told a story in a form of a video.

  5. I see nothing wrong with the ad at all, I’m a father, not a mom – must be a few too many thinned-skinned people out there – go figure.

  6. I am not a person who takes this kind of stuff
    “personally”, but I am also a person who doesn’t respond to being patronized. The tone of this ad is so condescending it’s almost laughable. Like I said in my post and Tweets, I make choices based on the quality of the product, not the morons in suits who create the ads, but c’mon now. A little research panel, a small mom-focus-group? Maybe they should’ve spent an even prettier penny to include these small details to ensure a FANTASTIC campaign and a different response.

  7. And here I thought it was time to let it blow over. To be fair, Alexis, if you’re going to make these points about how we should give a company the benefit of the doubt, then the same should be done for someone you call a “friend”. Do you know for certain that Katja started this whole thing or are you assuming that because she received a personal letter of apology? Because you know, she wasn’t the only one that received one.
    Why single Katja out when clearly this was a source of contention for so many moms out there? And then follow it up with a “I still love ya, though” as if disagreeing with her would mean that you didn’t?
    Alexis, I love you too, but to be honest…you came across as a little patronizing in this post and as someone who respects a lot of what you do, I was a little disappointed.
    With that said, I still love ya though.

  8. i agree!! i really don’t get why everyone is so hot about this. geesh, aren’t there more important things to be pissed about?

  9. i agree! i don’t understand why moms are so hot about this. aren’t there more important things going on to be pissed about?

  10. Amen, sister. I kept hearing about this yesterday and had many of the same thoughts you did. And props to you for disagreeing with a dear friend with such candor and clarity.

  11. Couldn’t agree more…this whole Motrin thing went ballistic in like two seconds without there really being a dialogue about it in a rational manner.

    The thing that surprised me was how some of the moms who were offended by the ad were in turn, offended that some of us weren’t offended. Ok, I have a headache and need a Motrin after just *writing* that sentence!

    Plus, I wasn’t offended because the ad spoke to me and addressed an actual problem I have had. That’s what advertising does, folks. It identifies a problem, creates a message to connect with a target market, and then provides the solution. If someone was offended, it might be because of the good fortune they have had in NOT being in pain from babywearing and any other innumerable aches and pains that mommyhood creates. And it creates a lot of them, and I’m not to sanctimonious to admit that mommyhood, while wonderful and fun can also be a big fat pain in the neck!

    So I say, “Thanks Motrin” for hearing my pain and recognizing an issue since there is a certain segment of the mom population who could care less about me. Off to buy a bottle of Motrin today just to be contrary….

    Thanks for the rational post…wish there were more!

  12. Couldn’t agree more…this whole Motrin thing went ballistic in like two seconds without there really being a dialogue about it in a rational manner.

    The thing that surprised me was how some of the moms who were offended by the ad were in turn, offended that some of us weren’t offended. Ok, I have a headache and need a Motrin after just *writing* that sentence!

    Plus, I wasn’t offended because the ad spoke to me and addressed an actual problem I have had. That’s what advertising does, folks. It identifies a problem, creates a message to connect with a target market, and then provides the solution. If someone was offended, it might be because of the good fortune they have had in NOT being in pain from babywearing and any other innumerable aches and pains that mommyhood creates. And it creates a lot of them, and I’m not to sanctimonious to admit that mommyhood, while wonderful and fun can also be a big fat pain in the neck!

    So I say, “Thanks Motrin” for hearing my pain and recognizing an issue since there is a certain segment of the mom population who could care less about me. Off to buy a bottle of Motrin today just to be contrary….

    Thanks for the rational post…wish there were more!

  13. Perhaps the discrepancy between the way people responded to the Motrin ad and the way they responded to the Protect Our Children Act lies in the perceived power to effect change.

    Regarding the former, where feelings were at stake, the Twitterati found immediate traction and momentum, and eventual vindication when the Motrin folks capitulated.

    Regarding the latter, where actual lives and psyches are still at stake, and despite Patricia Handschiegel’s valiant efforts, there was no immediate traction. It’s a much more complex issue without the promise of immediate gratification.

    Moms are powerful. It’s proven. What would happen if the Motrin indignation were aimed at child trafficking?

    I appreciate this post, Alexis.

  14. My initial reaction on this whole scenario is that there are many more important issues going on in this world right know than Motrin’s marketing plan. I did not find the ad to be demeaning to women, it was a truthful ad that many mom’s can relate too, but told in a poor manner.

    It was a bad ad and clearly not made for their target market-but too many people took it way out of context. Aren’t there many more pertinent issues going on in the world that we can all work our social media magic on to make better than worrying about an ad that would run its course in a few weeks? I just don’t get the waste of energy on this-I am sorry.

    As far as being a “dear friend”, I followed this whole media frenzy unfold yesterday and can say with certainty that Katja was not at the forefront of this, she created a dynamic video to get a point across, but this whole thing did not unfold because of her and think it is poor judgment to post this kind of information without actual facts. This is how people get hurt…..especially “dear friends”……

  15. Yes, the ad was offensive. Yes, it blew up very quickly. Perhaps because mommy bloggers feel that with two steps forward (campaigns like Walmart ElevenMoms) there is always a step back (the unelievably off target Motrin ad). So we show our disgust, our irritation.

    I think the bigger picture here is this: moms want to be heard, to be recognized for the strength and power that they are. We drive the economy. I don’t know any group of consumers that wants to be patronized…and that was really the larger picture, I believe.

    Katja used her “muscle” as a powerful mom, a powerful bloggr to give a voice to moms (and dads) who were upset by the ad. I thank her for that.

  16. The problem with the ad is the larger picture…that corporations, ad agencies and society in general find parenting well…amusing a stylistic choice void of any research beyond the local moms group. That parents do what they do (or refrain from doing), cloth diaper, baby wear, attachment parenting, CIO, no pacis, elimination training because it’s en vogue, organic home made baby food. That is insulting. It’s insulting to those who do NOT do those things as well, implying that then they are not ‘official moms.’ If you weren’t insulted by it, great (and no, I’m not being sarcastic, I think it’s great that you were not insulted by it). I was. And part of the joy of having the purchasing power of moms and now combined with the viral effects of the internet is the ability to affect change.

    I think it’s a pretty safe bet the people who were involved with this ad campaign will take a step back before putting out another snarky ad that is condescending and rude (to anyone, not just moms or just women, I find the paper towel ads that portray men as bumbling idiots who can’t figure out how to wipe up a spill insanely obnoxious and equally condescending).

    I think the above commenter was correct that it is reflective of an ability to feel powerful enough to affect the change. And I HAVE seen equally vehement responses to political and legislative issues. One recent one being the attempt to change the definition of abortion arguably to include hormonal birth control another being the attempt in Colorado to define life as beginning at the moment of conception and the blog response to Prop. 8 being passed in Cali. The entire count down to the election last month. So to say that it is only superfluous issues that receive this type of response is incorrect.

    And there is no sense in arguing what issue is more important. Each person has a limited amount of time in their life that they can devote to fighting issues. If we all picked the same issue as most important, than many other issues would have no effort put forth at all. So while it may not be a hot button issue for you that there are ads out there that are not only condescending but perpetuating the myth of moms doing things purely to be ‘in style’ and lacking any independent thought, it matters to me and I responded.

  17. Kimberly

    Sorry, didn’t take offense to it. As a mom to a 2 1/2 yr old and one on the way – who lives in Brooklyn and used a Baby Bjorn, sling, you name it up until my son was 10 months or so…this seems like a lot of outrage over a miscommunicated point. I’m in advertising – they didn’t mean to be offensive – think about it – why would they deliberately try to alienate their target audience? I feel like they were trying to be funny but obviously missed the boat with many moms out there.

  18. Pingback: Motrin, Who’s Feeling The Pain Now? | New Old Moms Club

  19. A few thoughts/points:

    1.) The ad should have never run because companies the size of J&J can afford to test them for their “offensiveness” factor. The fact that the ad ran means they either mis-tested it, or, they didn’t care. In either case they blew it and if they are smart they’ll learn from it.

    2.) We can debate the merits or demerits of the ad until the cows come home with their heads caved in — everybody is entitled to their opinion. At the end of the day if 5% (let alone say 50%) of women don’t like it, it was a mistake. If you think it’s okay, or just lame and harmless, I congratulate you for your easy going nature. As a marketer though, if a significant chunk of the target market are having the kind of reaction they are clearly having, then it’s a case study in marketing gone wrong, and my opinion doesn’t count. The target’s opinion counts.

    3.) I take the Mompreneur’s point that it may not deserve quite the level of emotion that’s happening. So yes, a deep breath, and let’s all learn from this. And — let’s not deny anybody’s feelings, regardless of what we feel.

  20. I don’t agree that this ad is nothing to be upset about. I think as mothers we have the right to object to advertising that paints us as crazy, stressed out idiots which is the vibe I got from not only this ad but Motrin’s other ads. They were obviously mis-informed about this matter of babywearing. BTW, I am concerned about many issues going on in the world today as are all of us. Making us feel guilty about letting our voices be heard on something isn’t very encouraging.

  21. Katja didnt start it. I find that she is a respectful blogger that has points and although her and i differ, i think she is totally awesome and is only stating a specific side.

    I think its great to have both sides heard, I am for one, on yours actually! But we should definitely not be attacking fellow BLOGGERS by name, its just fighting dirty.

    But i like that you know how to get a google link. lol

    trisha
    momdot.com

  22. wellesley

    I continue to be amused by the word “outrage” that is used about the Motrin ad response. Most people simply tweeted about it, meaning they wrote one sentence on tweeter that was less than 140 characters.

    Yes, some blogged and one in particular created a viral video.

    And yes, we should do the very same thing for other much more important issues.

    And yet, wouldn’t you say that this was an appropriate response to being denigrated and patronized too…simply expressing disdain? It got a response, which was to pull the ad. I think in the end this is what most of us wanted. And after that, the vast majority of those that expressed concerns came away pretty satisfied.

    Can we do the same thing about child pornography? I wish it were that easy. I think that would require a much bigger response and much more organized one.

    This was simply one person, telling one friend, and she told two friends, and so on and so on…and people bitched and they were heard and the response was a simple one. A small issue, an easy solution…what made is unique was that it was driven by social media.

    And hopefully it will teach us that we can do the same for larger, more important issues.

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  24. In my life before kids, I was in advertising. The advertising culture back then rarely gave any credence to a small pile of complaint letters. Rarely would correspondence have made a dent in the wall of advertisers’ self-satisfied mentalities. It’s much easier now to contact agencies and I do hope they have become more responsive and open to the very real, very vital feedback their audiences give them. If so, maybe the feedback can be gentle and prodding rather than raging. But as with a child, sometimes it take a little voice raising to get their attention.

  25. For a woman too busy “building an empire” to blog, I find it interesting that this is how you fill your pages.

    I’m sorry that my issue isn’t big enough for you, but really I’m sad for women everywhere that some are still so insecure that they’d take their precious “empire building” time to berate another group of women.

  26. RxCowboy

    To the #motrinmoms, do you want some cheese to go with that whine?

    Sheez…

  27. benning

    Remember, unless Jessica thinks it’s okay for you to speak, you keep quiet!

    The ad made me shrug. Maybe a bit snarky, but it seems most ads are these days. Other than that, what’s the big deal?

  28. I make slings, love mine, have an Ergo and a Bjorn too. And, still use them sometimes with my 3.5 and 2-year old kids (sometimes it’s most convenient). When my babies were little, I didn’t get a pain in the neck, now? I’ve had to go to the chiropractor a few times, or take an Aleve or Advil (coincidentally, I’ve never been a Motrin gal). I’m still going to carry my kids occasionally though. My choice. Strollers are a pain too sometimes.

    This ad appears to simply have been put out by people who haven’t a clue. The part where I get irritated is… “Plus, it totally makes me look like an official Mom…” Um, is the “mom” in this ad, “like, totally” 14?” And, apparently, looking like an “official mom” is looking tired and crazy. Excellent. Way to speak to your demographic.

    A slightly different rhetoric here would’ve made the ad hilarious instead of just plain foolish.

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  30. David

    Why do these moms care what Motrin’s PR thinks if they’re wrong anyway? Do they get embittered everytime someone says a “your mama” joke? Seriously, why take the time to care? A real woman is going to laugh at another ridiculous ad campaign and ignore it. Whether the parent company of Motrin “cares” or not, their intention was to put themselves at the side of parents so that they’ll buy Motrin. (Does advertising even work? I look at the mg of what chemical, not the brand name.)
    This is about someone’s “power” being compromised. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of babies (I have an 8 year-old, an 18 month-old, and a two month-old. When I talk about children to new mothers, I get this evil look like I’m sucking the power out of them. They know everything! It doesn’t matter how many problems you conquered, you’re a killer if you ‘pretend’ to know more than someone else.) you’re just not supposed to go that route. I ask again: why care? Are you protecting the less intelligent? Are you afraid they’re going to drive your favorite product out of business? (which by the way caused ME back pain but was very useful for a happy baby)
    There is absolutely no reason this should have gone past “That’s another miss. Do they have any idea who their market is? Oh well. Next commercial.”
    I repeat: any real woman won’t CARE what a drug company thinks about potential causes of sales or uses of drugs. If you like something, use it. If the product is so brilliant, swear by it and suggest it. But don’t pretend this is anything more than a compromisal of your fragile ego and power.
    *stands back and watches missles deploy*

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