December 4, 2008
Last week, Johnson & Johnson’s Motrin got a bit of a headache after outraged moms responded to an ad on their website which is part of an ad campaign currently running in magazines. The ad, which was read aloud by a 20-something, implies that moms carry their babies as fashion accessories. What ensued was a jolt through Twitter, message boards, blogs and YouTube as moms everywhere fought back.
Unfortunately, according to reports, for some time, the ad agency responsible for this campaign wasn’t aware of the buzz their campaign had created. Once news spread, Motrin responded.
Motrin addressed consumers through an email response to bloggers who had blogged on the campaign and through a message posted at motrin.com. Both responses explained that the intent of the campaign was to “demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies” (from Kathy Widmer, VP of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, who has the responsibility for the Motrin Brand) and apologized to any moms that had been offended.
This outcry obviously wasn’t the reaction that Motrin and their advertising agency had anticipated when they concepted and created this ad campaign. The plan was to connect with moms through the common experience (and the common pain) of carrying a child. But, clearly, the plan failed. While the response from Motrin was good, the brand may have lost some customers permanently.
The lesson in this story: social media (like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more) is powerful, so powerful that it can spread a message incredibly quickly and leave us pleased with its results or reeling from a public relations nightmare.