Motringate: The ad wasn't the issue. Motrin just didn't listen.

8 years ago

OK so, if you have a life outside the internet, and if you don't find yourself obsessively checking Twitter all the time, and you're generally not a big fat geek, you may not have heard of Motringate. The Reader's Digest version goes, Motrin posted an ad on their website.

The ad, a cutesy-mootsy "Momversation" about how "babywearing makes my back hurt!" didn't really go over well. Babywearing moms, in particular, were not happy. An anti-Motrin backlash ensued, that got all the worse because Motrin appeared to not be listening over the weekend. If you have the time or energy, you can go see the whole thing unfold over on Twitter if you care to go back 70 or 80 pages. It was truly a hissy fit of epic proportions.

And of course, inevitably the anti-Mom backlash has started, mostly from men it has to be said, and mostly men who aren't parents, who are inevitably telling Moms to get a life, it's just a stupid ad. And inevitably, these men are missing the point.

The problem with the Motrin ad wasn't really necessarily the ad itself. I mean, yes, in its cutesyness and its attempt to sound hip, the ad missed the mark. It managed to sound both patronizing and critical of a childrearing philosophy that women feel passionate about (namely, babywearing). Was that really the big deal? Not especially, no.

The real issue is that Moms have been telling brands like Johnson & Johnson (who owns Motrin) how to approach them for years now, and Motrin didn't bother to pay attention. And Moms are tired of it.

The number one rule on how to approach Moms (or anyone, really) is simple : Listen first.

If Motrin had been listening, they'd know that women are passionate about babywearing. They'd know that there are already debates about it, support groups, that babywearing itself is a philosophy. They'd know that saying things like "supposedly" babywearing is a bonding experience and that babywearing "totally makes me look like an official mom" are not funny. They'd know that any woman who babywears would not find that commercial entertaining.

They'd also know that women hate being patronized, hate it when childrearing decisions are mocked or poked, prodded or marginalized. It's already tough enough out there for Moms. It's a hard job and people don't take it seriously, instead calling Moms (and Mom-bloggers) narcissistic and hysterical and over-reactive and a thousand other unflattering names when they speak up about kid issues. Treating Moms as if their child-rearing decisions are a joke is automatically a bad idea for a company who wants to get Moms on its side, and even worse when those same Moms have been telling these companies how to approach them for years and companies so obviously can't be bothered to pay attention.

They'd also know that when Moms are pissed, they band together. And that their voices are loud.

They didn't listen, and they continued not to listen when their ad started to attract attention, when Twitter got loud and boisterous. Which in itself is simply a failure of Motrin to monitor their own social media footprint, which is inexcusable in November 2008, and someone needs to get a Social Media Monitoring 101 class first thing this morning.

Women spend 85% of the household income, especially when it comes to things like typical household painkillers such as Motrin. Mom-bloggers are an incredibly influential group that marketers have been wetting themselves over for years. In the end, there's really no justification to air an ad like this, one that obviously wasn't vetted and actually alienates the target audience. This was a massive social media fail on Motrin's part, not because the ad was dumb, but because they didn't bother to pay attention to the one thing we've been telling them to do for years already: Just. Listen. And for that, they paid the price.

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