A few days ago the makers of pain-reliever Motrin (Johnson & Johnson) launched a commercial campaign that annoyed and outraged mothers around the world.
"That couldn’t have been written by a mother," noted my sister, Jennifer. "The speak about how carrying your baby around is in fashion, but it’s certainly not a passing fad nor a fashion statement – you need to carry your child… and the car seat… and the stroller."
Complaints about the ad were flooding through social networks like Twitter this weekend. Jennifer added, "some of the comments I read online said that ‘mommy bloggers’ were taking things too seriously. But, um, aren’t ‘mommies’ the target audience for this ad?"
In a demonstration of the growing power of social media, on Monday the company issued an apology and withdrew an ad that was meant to be a light-hearted look at ‘baby wearing.’ …Instead, the online video offended a large majority of moms. They not only weren’t laughing, they were making their views known in an online storm that blasted through the blogosphere and the micro-blogging website Twitter, spiking traffic and spreading bad news about the brand. [Vancouver Sun]
I was asked by the Sun for my thoughts on Motrin’s use of social media for this campaign.
"The first mistake was the content of the Motrin ad. And
then they didn’t follow up and see the online reaction. It is the
second biggest topic on Twitter after Christmas." The conversations varied from vitriolic to very funny. [Vancouver Sun]
The NY Times noted that within 48 hours people were taking matters into their own hands.
By Sunday afternoon a few bloggers and tweeters had
gotten the ad agency that created the ad on the phone, to find they
didn’t know a lot about Twitter and didn’t seem to have a clue that
there was so much anger piling up online. [NY Times]
However, Sean Moffitt with Buzz Canuck reminds us all that this was just an ad, which has actually since been retracted with an apology:
"Unlike previous social media infernos, Motrin neither
lied (Sony), deceived about their identity (Wal-Mart),
endangered/inconvenienced a city (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) or provided
dubious insider tips (Whole Foods). It was simply an ad. As ads go, it
was more intriguing than most…perhaps with the same ad executed poorly,
we might have never noticed it."
True, a lot more harm could have been done, and because of this outcry (because apparently mothers cry all the time) the ad was pulled. Case closed… or is it?
It’s an example of how quickly word travels. The ad can be launched,
up on YouTube, and around the world 10 times before you take another
sip of your coffee or in this case, before the end of the weekend.
Now all but the bravest marketers are going to worry
about this kind of outcry and yet another layer of political
correctness will creep in. [Buzz Canuck]
I don’t think this should scare people off, I just think there’s a
bigger conversation out there that companies need to be a part of.
"One bright spot is that we have learned through this
process – in particular, the importance of paying close attention to
the conversations that are taking place online. It has also brought
home the importance of taking a broader look at what we say and how it
may be interpreted." [Johnson & Johnson Blog]
Ways to fix this? Get some of those ‘mommy bloggers’ to submit ideas
for an ad, or send them some Motrin and have them create their own
YouTube videos about how it effectively helped them.
The simplest way for now is to sign up for a Twitter account and
check things out for yourself or at least become familiar with the
social media tools you are using (you don’t even need an account to
check out trending topics either). Being social and having discussions is what social media is all about, as the parody video (above) suggests.