Exploring Social Media: The Motrin Moment Impact of Social Media

Filed as Features on November 18, 2008 12:26 am

Exploring Social Media article series badgeHave you heard of Motrin? The pain reliever? If you hadn’t before this weekend, you probably have heard plenty about it now, especially on Twitter this weekend.

The debacle is described best in the article Advertising Age, “How Twittering Critics Brought Down Motrin Mom Campaign,” which explains how the Johnson & Johnson product offended mothers and fathers with an online and print ad for Motrin which claimed that some moms carry their babies around with baby body carriers as a “fashion statement” and summed it up with “Supposedly it’s a real bonding experience, but what about me?”

The outrage rocked the social media world. tweets on Motrin went berserk as people were outraged at this slam against parenthood and parent/child bonding. Within two days of mass online social outrage, the ad campaign was pulled and the Motrin’s website featured an apology saying:

With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you.

On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Mortin Brand, please accept our sincere apology.

We have heard your concerns about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and we take feedback from moms very seriously…

The Advertising Age article summarized it as:

The campaign has been online since Sept. 30 and has been circulating in several magazines for weeks, but it finally caught the attention — and ire — of some influential bloggers Friday night before blowing up into a full-fledged cause celebre on Twitter over the weekend.

The ultimate demise of the campaign demonstrates either how quickly social media can galvanize a groundswell of opinion or how much power over online discourse they can give a few vocal tastemakers with outsize weight.

The beginning of the end for the Motrin push probably came Friday night, when Los Angeles blogger Jessica Gottlieb said she was tipped off to the ads and started expressing her outrage over the campaign on Twitter, where she has 1,018 followers.

From blogger to blogger, then Twitter to Twitter, word spread proving, “Many people with small networks have just as much influence as a few people with large networks,” explained David Armano, VP at marketing firm Critical Mass, in the article.

Elisa Camahort Page of BlogHer was also quoted in the article:

We now have indisputable proof that online marketing, YouTube and Twitter and all that it encompasses is meaningful and has arrived,” said Gene Grabowsk, chair of the crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications. “We are seeing real consequences to a mistake. If [social networks] didn’t matter, you wouldn’t see this type of reaction from J&J or consumers.

While you might not have known about Motrin before this weekend, the impact of the Motrin ad campaign on the online social media networks will be remembered for a long time to come. A Motrin Moment in the new social order.

Exploring Social Media Series

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  1. By Zach posted on November 18, 2008 at 3:01 am
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    It’s rather funny how things like this “Motrin moms” things are viewed as some amazing show of power for social media when in fact it does little more than to show hos a few herders can gather their flock, generate false rage, and create a “movement.”

    The only thing to come out of this in my opinion is the fact that there are a lot of people out there so very willing to take something so clearly innocuous and blow completely out of proportion using such simple minded interpretations of what was actually said or meant by an ad.

    So, when someone asks me, “what’s this social media thing anyway”, there is little to stop me from telling them that its a part of the internet where people who think they are a lot more important than they really are gather around faux celebrities who think they are even more important than the aforementioned group, waste obscene amounts of time and money, and in the end produce no real worthwhile results for society as a whole.

    And as much as I enjoy tweeting, facebooking, and scrolling through endless blog entries and comments I’m sorry to say that it’s the damned truth and if “new media” doesn’t watch what they are doing they will quickly find them selves in the exact same position that “old media” is currently facing.

    Now, excuse me while I go post this to my blog and tweet about it.

    Reply

    • By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 18, 2008 at 11:16 am
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      You have helped explain why so many are confused by social media. They think it is more than what it is. Hopefully, through this article series, we can break it down into what it really is, and how we can use, or abuse, social media tools for our blog efforts.

      Reply

  2. By Amber in Albuquerque posted on November 18, 2008 at 8:22 am
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    I missed the whole thing. I don’t Twitter. Does it matter. Nope, not a bit. Would I have been sucked in if I was a Twitterer (is that even the right word)? Probably…because advertising ticks me off, well all the time. Still, I’d rather leave this to people with excess time on their hands and/or no desire for a ‘real world’ life and only get involved with stuff that is of critical importance to me (for me, that’s elections and local school stuff, not big national ad campaigns…different strokes though).

    I think there’s a great deal of truth in Zach’s comment. Social media are a huge time sink that generate so much mock outrage and overzealous posturing that they leave little time for introspection and thoughtful attention to what’s really important (foreclosures, job loss, global climate change, the sorry state of education in this country…). Read 1984 or Farenheit 451 lately? Not to be totally paranoid, but even if this isn’t intentional, it is beneficial to those who have profited in the process of creating the current mess.

    Reply

  3. By Brian Carnell posted on November 18, 2008 at 8:29 am
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    I’m with Zach on this one. After reading the initial posts/tweets about this Motrin ad I tracked it down on Youtube expecting some blatantly offensive ad…and instead found a fairly pedestrian piece of marketing fluff.

    Apparently social media movements will be all about incessant navel gazing-inspired whining.

    Reply

  4. By Eric Rice posted on November 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm
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    I’ve been seeing this marginalized a bit and wonder if it will have an effect on the perception of social media’s effectiveness as a whole. It took me (and my wife even longer) a couple times to wrap our heads around the drama and figure out -why- it was offensive.

    Meanwhile, civil rights are being trampled, people are out of work, and Haitian mothers have to choose which child lives and dies— and THIS is getting the attention… seriously, be careful how you go about your legacy.

    Now, about the marginalizing of dads…

    Reply

  5. By Angel Cuala posted on November 18, 2008 at 10:34 pm
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    I learned about it through Seth Godin’s blog, and he discussed it on how Motrin apologized to their customers. Their website is now closed, but it looked like the apology was a bit professional rather than personal.

    Social media I think is a easiest way sorry to connect not only bloggers, but also a forum for end consumers. However, just like in any kind of media where trial by publicity is always possible.

    Reply

  6. By Janelle posted on November 19, 2008 at 12:37 am
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    “The only thing to come out of this in my opinion is the fact that there are a lot of people out there so very willing to take something so clearly innocuous and blow completely out of proportion using such simple minded interpretations of what was actually said or meant by an ad.”

    Actually, the same exact thing could be said of the (over)reaction by those who think the “Motrin Moms” were over-reacting to begin with. Seems that everyone wants their 15 minutes worth of fame.

    And the as is not clearly innocuous to many people. That you say so is a sweet rhetorical trick and ad hominem attack, nothing more. But nice try. You should write for an ad agency.

    Reply

  7. By Wayne Altman posted on April 23, 2009 at 10:54 am
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    I could not disagree more with this assessment of Social Media. In September 2008 I released a book (my 3rd) on Credit. Since then I have sold Credit Control in over 42 States and 38 countries worldwide (something I NEVER expected to do) .

    Using Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, YouTube, I have been able to help others understand Credit,while supplementing my income and providing a much better standard of living for my family. You cannot tell me this does not work, I am living proof it does.

    This is my first book released totally online, with NO publisher. The first two cost me money, “When Bad Credit Happens To Good People” has been incredibly profitable.

    I am not so sure that I am the only one profiting from Social Media either. I use it to reconnect with friends and family as well.

    We are in a new age folks, put your head in the sand at your peril. I for one choose to ride the wave.. I get to help people, solve terrible problems, while enriching my family, and community. What more is there again?

    Reply

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