Advertising Mishap?

More than a handful of moms are pissed at Motrin (the brand of ibuprofen) for an ad campaign that appears to be anti-baby-carrying (or something).

This fascinates me for a few reasons.

TAXI, the firm that produced the campaign for Motrin (or, more specifically, Johnson & Johnson), was probably trying to woo the much sought after “Mom Market” by showing that their brand cares about them (the moms) and not just their kids. After checking out the campaign, I really doubt they’re trying to say that carrying your baby is bad (though that’s how it came off). Motrin would actually WANT a mother to do something that makes her back sore so she has to take pain medication.

But moms are pissed at the assumption that carrying a baby makes your back/feet/neck/whatever hurt…and are saying that they think Motrin “bashes babywearing” (to quote one mom’s blog).

What’s amazing to me is that because of the PR mess this campaign created, moms are starting boycotts of Motrin (urging others to buy Advil instead, for instance). Of course, what would actually be effective would be boycotting all of Johnson & Johnson’s products, but I digress.

It seems a little rash to me. I mean, I do think that a company should be held responsible for the things they say, but (and maybe because I’m not a mom) all the uproar over a campaign that isn’t explicitly even saying moms shouldn’t carry their babies?

The thing is, moms and the “Mom Market” are the single most powerful consumer group in the U.S. Period. And they know it. Which is one reason why marketing to mothers is so difficult. You show a mom cleaning the house (either happily or unhappily) and it pisses moms off. Why? Because though these women may clean their own homes, they do (gasp!) other things, too! Like play, run companies, make up stories for their kids, drink martinis, take naps, have crazy-fun sex, read War & Peace, whatever.

There are so many individual people in this “consumer group” that it’s virtually impossible to depict a “mom” without upsetting every single other mother who that depiction doesn’t represent.

Through my own research (though it wasn’t done scientifically at all), I found that a majority of women who have children don’t even like to be referred to by a company or advert as a “mom”. This is something I think I can understand. There are so many attachments that our culture has made to that word (not to mention “working mother” or “stay-at-home mom” which come with their own baggage).

One explanation is that nobody wants to be labeled. I think of Jean-Michel Basquiat asking why he must be a “Black artist” and not just an “artist”.

But there are groups who seem to enjoy their labels. The best example is the “tech/geek/nerd” market. As we’ve all heard ad nauseum, being a geek is “cool” these days.

So why isn’t being a mom cool? And why isn’t it okay to say that babywearing (carrying your baby in your arms, in a wrap, sling, backpack, frontback, papoose) hurts?

Anyone with insight into navigating the conundrum, I would love to hear your thoughts.

* * *

And P.S. I think it’s absolutely NUTS to buy brand-name drugs when generic ibuprofen is exactly the same thing. So, in that sense, I support a boycott of Motrin, Advil, whomever, because what you pay for is the “brand” (meaning, you pay for the advertising) and it’s a big waste of money. There is absolutely no reasonable explanation for buying a brand-name drug. Ibuprofen is ibuprofen is ibuprofen (sometimes they’ll throw caffeine in the ingredients to make it ExtraSuperIbuprofen…in that case, take 400 mgs and drink a cup of coffee).

P.P.S. For the record, I think the campaign was designed beautifully, but the copy is horrendous and annoying (for anyone), as well as the sound of the voice actor.

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One Response to “Advertising Mishap?”

  1. califmom Says:

    All incredibly relevant perceptions on your part. I think you really nailed it when you talk about moms not wanting that to be their label, if for no other reason than the vast diversity of our group. Yet, what’s an advertiser to do? Stereotypes are essential to advertising, are they not? I don’t know enough about PR and ads to understand all of the science behind it, but I would think some kind of “grouping” has to take place in order to pitch the product. The difficulty with pitching to moms is that as soon as you group us into one subset, you’ve pissed off the multitudes of subsets you’ve excluded. Certainly not the job I’d want. I don’t envy J&J or TAXI on Monday morning…although word on twitter is they’re already in the know, having visited some blogs already.

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