Don't mess with mama is the lesson advertisers may have taken from the weeklong advertising debacle fast becoming known as MotrinMoms. Whichever side of the debate you may take – outrage over Motrin's insult to moms and specifically to babywearers, or confusion over what the heck the fuss is all about – there is no arguing that the advertising and public relations industry is sitting up and taking notice of the power of niche groups and social media.
Just in case you are late to the MotrinMoms affair, the whole thing started with a series of ads Motrin created to try to target moms. Here is the now infamous ad about babywearing.
There also seems to be a shorter one about wanting to be "hot mom" in high heels. There's also one for Children's Motrin and children's fevers that talks more wanting to get some sleep than about the kids actually getting better (and when it does, it talks about getting that fever down so the kids can go draw on walls and stick hands in the toilet again..nice image of kids).
I heard about the ads on some of my mommy-themed yahoo groups, but it was very quickly all over facebook, twitter, blogger, youtube and more. In short, moms were ticked. Babywearers (the ad was timed, accidentally or intentionally, but either way, unfortunately, with International Babywearing week) rallied around the misinformation in the ad that carriers, not their incorrect use or sizing caused pain. Conscious mamas like me chafed against the idea that deliberate choices for our children's well-being were derided as "trendy" or chosen simply to look cool or as they said, like an "official" mom. Natural-living folks hated that the ads choose "fix the pain with a pill" over "fix the problem causing the pain."
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what moms are so mad about…so here's my advice for companies in the future who want to avoid the same kind of thrashing on the increasingly powerful social networks:
We put our kids first – Now don't get excited…it's not that easy. For different moms that means different things. Moms make tough decisions about the best things for our kids. Do we work, or stay home? Do we vaccinate or wait? Do we co-sleep or use a crib? Whatever it is, we take our choices seriously. But while the mom in the Motrin ad claimed to be doing what her kid needed, it was really a smokescreen for wanting to be cool and trendy. This doesn't go over well with us.
Do your research -- The motrin ad gave a lot of disinformation about babywearing. Without that, the whole thing might not have taken off. "These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders…" is hardly accurate. As literally thousands of moms informed motrin, a properly chosen carrier, worn correctly is certainly less stressful on the body than carrying a baby around in arms, or possibly even pushing a stroller! Babywearers were insulted, and also put off by the notion that you were spreading misinformation to those who would simply decide babywearing was stupid if it hurt so much you had to take a pain pill if you did it.
Don't pretend to be one of us -- Perhaps the most surprising moment of your ad was when the narrator said "I sure do" when talking about her babywearing experience. Because up until that moment, there was no reason to think that she had ever worn her baby – she was talking like an outsider about it, and not in a flattering way. Words like "seems to be," in theory," "they've come up with," "supposedly" and "they say" put the narrator squarely on the outside of the babywearing community, looking in deridingly – and then we were supposed to respect her for doing it anyway and relate to her need for Motrin. Are you daft? My "favorite" part had to be the "coo-coo" sound when talking about how mothers look and act. Did you even talk to a mother, much less a babywearer when writing this ad? I don't even care that much about babywearing – I did it here and there with my second baby, but I'm hardly an expert or a advocate like many women I know. But this ad was just generally insulting to moms! And weren't we the target market?
To those who think there was too much fuss over this whole affair, let me reply to some of your concerns. Yes, there are more important issues in the world to get upset about – so does that mean we shouldn't fight the easy battles? And to those who wondered online if moms don't have anything better to do than complain over an ad, I have to ask…don't you have anything better to do than complain that something you profess not to care about is being made too big a deal over by those who do care about it? To those who tell the MotrinMoms to get a life – we have a life – our life is our kids and our families and the choices we have made raising them (and sometimes "wearing" them). What's your excuse?
Want to learn about babywearing? Read Babywearing International's Response to the Motrin Ad