Twitter Makes Motrin Feel the Pain – #motrinmoms

Happened to stumble across this today on Laura Fitton’s Pistachio Consulting Blog, but I have found another

reason to toss on the heaping pile of why companies should have robust reputation management programs that include Twitter feeds.  An ad on the Motrin site has a running monologue of a mother essentially complaining of back pain from carrying her baby.

I did not find the ad particularly offensive, but there are a whole lot of people who did.  When you read this, go to Twitter search and look for #motrinmoms.  These guys are getting barbecued like a rack of ribs on the 4th of July.  And guess what?

  • The ad is still up.
  • Now there is an “anti” video that sprung up in Internet time (below).  The ad shows negative Tweets AND HAPPY MOMS CARRYING THEIR BABIES. Oh – and it was not lost on me that the soundtrack of the “anti” clip was “Danny Boy.” Heh.

If this does not make the case for robust online issues management, I don’t know what does.  Remains to be seen what impact this can have on sales, but geez, a multimillion dollar company in a highly competitive space does not need to have this stuff hanging out there, even as a write this on a Sunday night.




  1. Aimee Saldivar Says: November 16, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I may not be the most credible person commenting on this add since I am not a mom but really, what is the hype all about? I do have to say that the moms that contributed to this montage of carrying their babies and being happy and not feeling pain is a load of crap. I would have to say being an “aunt” to many of my friend’s children and godmother as well as a nanny for 6 six kids back in the day, I have heard nothing but complaints from my friends and family about carrying their children all day. I have never seen anyone so happy about holding their baby except for they are first born, after that, it’s all downhill with complaints.
    Again, I am not a mom but you don’t see other women upset about Motrin relieving menstrual cramps and putting that advertising online and on TV. Really! Come on people, let’s worry about something more credible and make a movement towards something that can really effect kid’s futures. This is ridiculous!

  2. Becky Richardson Says: November 16, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Don’t get me wrong–I am not saying that Motrin’s ad is good. But, unlike the Pistachio blog, I wonder if McNeil and Taxi are in fact monitoring Twitter—and blogs like Mark’s for example. I also wondered if they put this “controversial” ad out there on purpose, given that, as Mark pointed out, it is still up. Perhaps the goal was to generate publicity, which they have done, and to generate traffic for their website, which they have done (I know I have never been to the Motrin website before). A couple of things struck me about the ad—-which made me wonder if it was trying to push some buttons: ”Wearing your baby seems to be IN FASHION;” “SUPPOSEDLY, it’s a real bonding experience;” and lastly ,“it totally makes me LOOK like an official mom.” These aren’t statements that are trying to win over the baby-wearing mom. “We feel your pain” is a great slogan…if they’d then launched into an ad about how your back feels after hunching over a bathtub to bathe a kid for the 1000th time or lugging a car seat along with groceries, I’d believe the campaign was about feeling my pain. But this ad struck me as targeting a different market—or trying to generate some publicity. Like Mark said, it didn’t offend me; but as a former baby-wearing mom, I thought they were so off-target that it must have been purposeful. Perhaps the social media debate is the real goal of this campaign.

  3. Aimee Saldivar Says: November 16, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    I am starting to think that Motrin is going to ignore this publicity because it will generate more attention towards this group if they do respond. Maybe this is Motrin’s way of responding, by not responding.

  4. Lindsey Brothers Says: November 16, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    I went to and ironically the entire Web site is shut down at this point. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to view the original ad on and it is not on YouTube.

    From reading the twitters its hard for me to understand why this is such a big deal. As somebody that babysits an 8 month old, has to pick him up, carry him around, play with him, bend over to change him, clean up after him, push him in his stroller, and wear him from time to time using the Bjorn, I can totally understand the need for some pain reliever. My back always hurts after caring for him and if he were my baby I wouldn’t be offended by an advertisement targeting Mom’s for this exact reason. I’m also sure that the team that developed this ad had a few moms on board. Apparently they were not offended. I’d be interested in hearing where this ad was developed and if it is an area where moms don’t typically wear their babies.

    I’ve learned that some people are offended by ads that violate “their moral sense of how ‘things should be.'” In this case, closeness and bonding between mother and baby are necessary and enjoyed by those against the ad. Maybe mothers feel the ad is bashing a bonding moment that is important to them.

    Furthermore, ads developed for attention-getting purposes, “use tactics which deliberately violate the social customs which parents, school, and church seek to develop.” I’d like to know if there is a story behind Motrin’s decision to use this ad and how sales will be affected months from now.


  5. @Becky Richardson-You are giving WAY too much credit to the ad agency. The ad agency doesn’t even know what twitter is, let alone know why they should be monitoring it for mentions of Motrin. There is no way that this was done on purpose- any agency worth a dime knows that alienating your target market is a sure-fire way to erode the trust that the client is putting in you to IMPROVE its brand image, not destroy it.

    This is a case of a company and its marketing agency being clueless about twitter and most likely social media as a whole. The fact that they were clueless about this is evidenced by the fact that they’ve finally taken it down nearly 24 hours after it was first put up. There is no story behind this ad besides ignorance.

  6. Adriana Gallegos Says: November 16, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    I agree with Aimee about “spend time on something more credible and make a movement towards something that can really effect kid’s futures. This is ridiculous.” This day in age you can’t control everything that is being said about you or your product. You need to decide if it is important enough to respond to the negativity because you just can’t please everyone. If motrin feels that the complaints of these mothers are really affecting their product then they should issue a statement or implement a strategy, but until that is decided they shouldn’t do much.

  7. While I’m not discrediting what Aimee has said, I think you missed an important point. It was not holding/carrying a child that Motrin targeted, but carrying a child in a sling. I agree with Aimee that carrying a child in your arms is painful and very tiring, but that is why so many parents, mothers and fathers, choose to carry their child in a sling. It leaves the arms free and if done properly, it causes minimal pain, if any. It’s like carrying a backpack properly. It gives parents a chance to have their child close to them while allowing them to do other things and carry other items. It’s a simplification of life. More than that, it’s a way for parents to bond with their children.

    I can see why moms are getting angry over the ad. Unfortunately, the tone the Motrin marketing team took came off flippant and disregardful of moms who carried their children in a sling, as if it wasn’t a personal choice, but more of a “fashion” choice, and a “last resort” choice, reasoned by “it makes me look like a mom”. Mothers don’t use their child for show, they love their children and would do anything for them. Many mothers love to “wear” their babies, as the terms goes, because it’s a bonding experience for them. Motrin, despite their true intention of trying to alleviate the pain that could be associated with carrying your child, chose the wrong path by targeting those that carried their child in a sling and making it seem as if mother’s did it for fashion and to be an “official” mom. Had the ad’s tone been different and the words chosen were different, this ad would have come off differently. It could have come off as a caring ad, that Motrin cares about mother’s because of all they do for their children, and that Motrin was there for mothers. Instead, they managed to insult mothers.

    So yes, their marketing team made a bad choice, in who they targeted, the tone used in the ad, the flippant remarks they made, in not testing this ad in focus groups, but especially now: with no online monitoring tools. How Motrin can have an online ad on their website, but not monitor the online social media tools such as Twitter astounds me. Social media and online marketing and public relations isn’t one way, and it can’t only be used to how a company wants; using a few tools here, and disregarding the rest. With the quick movement of information online, a company must learn to monitor all online discussion of themselves. There are already several video responses to the Motrin ad on YouTube. One can only hope that Motrin, and other companies, will learn from their mistakes. Online monitoring tools are more important than the clipping pulled everyday to monitor what the news syndicates are saying about a company because information online moves quicker than any newspaper or newscast can/will and it reaches far more people.

  8. The Motrin web site has been down, I wonder if they are finally responding?

    The ad can still be viewed on YouTube here:

  9. Becky Richardson Says: November 17, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Thanks to Morriss Partee at for follow-up on this story. He was right; I gave way too much credit.

  10. Morriss, how can you say that the ad agency doesn’t even know what Twitter is? Was there a story out there that I missed?

    The challenge with social media is that it provides a significant platform for those who choose to use it. However, it is impossible to know at the outset whether we are hearing a vocal minority or a group representative of Moms as a whole.

    As has been noted, a valid response decision is to not respond. Assuming that the lack of a statement by Motrin means that they don’t know what is going on is nothing more than speculation.

    What if — as is often the case — the ad agency had tested the ad with a focus group and it was overwhelmingly positively received? Does that have no validity simply because vocal opposition developed on Twitter?

    The bottom line is that none of us has all the facts here. Once again, however, many social media types seem ready to skewer the company that chooses to engage rather than encouraging them and offering constructive criticism.

    This one seems destined to be added to the list of incidents that will only discourage companies from participating in online media.

  11. Mark Story Says: November 17, 2008 at 6:00 am


    I wrote a follow up post this morning based upon Peter Shankman’s take. The eff up is not so much the ad (which I still don’t see as that offensive), but on the fact that they were not careful with one of the most connected, viral communities out there: mommy bloggers.

    And I am with Chip – I like engagement over snarky-ness. Admittedly, I skewered the Chairman of Publicis last week, but emailed them in advance and warned the people in their coalition that the post was coming. They actually thanked me.


  12. Wow – That’s my first reaction. I’m not one to be offended easily, so maybe I don’t get it, but it seems a bit blown out of a proportion for my liking.

    For those that are especially passionate about this video – why not buy a shirt? Hurry! Don’t want them to run out before you get one!

    Part of me thinks that if they put all the energy exhibited in their disgust with Motrin, we would be on our way to solving some of the worlds problems. At the same time, I understand that different topics hit people different than others. If I was one of the minds behind the ad, I think I would be surprised by the outcome. At the same time, I also wonder if they tested it on anyone? If so, what was the feedback? Did they just ignore negative opinions about the ad?

    I think the concept of the “feel your pain” ads is a great idea. However, maybe focus on something else next time? Anyone see any response by the makers of the baby bjorne? or other sling makers?


    This site shows the response email from Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcar. It is a response to someone who left feedback on Motrin’s website.

    (I did check it out on technorati and it has pretty good credibility)

  14. After watching the video a couple of times, I am still struggling to find out why this was recieved so poorly by mommy bloggers. I am not a mom though, so I am sure I am not the best person to share my opinion.

    I completely agree with Chip and recognize that we don’t have all of the facts here. They could have done a study or focus group where it was actually received well. I realize this is an extreme generalization, but I have seen it so many times that bloggers are quick to jump to conclusions and post things on their blog or twitter without knowing all of the facts.

    That being said, the main point of all of this is to recognize that Motrin and their PR agency should be monitoring all of the social media, especially right when they launch a new ad. They have caught wind of this though because they did take the video down, but I believe the damage has been done already. They have upset too many mommy bloggers and so many more have jumped on the bandwagon. It should also be a lesson learned by a lot of companies out there. I have heard a number of companies now hiring social media experts and all they are in charge of is monitoring blogs and respond to them, if necessary. I don’t know if Motrin has someone responsible for that, but I think they should look into it if they don’t. That is where the industry is moving towards and companies need to realize that.

    I wonder how this will effect their sales. I noticed a number of tweets and blog comments that said they lost a customer in them. Interested to see the feedback from Motrin and the agency.

  15. Thira Sannikorn Says: November 17, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I’m with Adriana and Aimee, and I do believe that Motrin’s way is to not responding because no one cannot control everything out there. The important thing to be in mind is that is it worth to get response? I don’t think the slogan “feel your pain” having any problem. I think that it is one of the great slogan which I may stop by to see what is it when I hear or see it. The term may just need the tactic to make it more interesting.

  16. I find this interesting. I honestly would not have projected this sort of response from the online community myself if I was in the communications planning room. Good to learn from others mistakes, though. It just goes to show that you can’t control the reaction to every message, but you sure can respond appropriately.

    I notice this with blogs, twitter, youtube comments, and facebook even; the tone of the voices tend to flow in waves. Looking at motrin twits, you can see that initially there was this negative reaction, but now there are more “this is stupid, not a big deal” twits on motrinmommy feed (perhaps this is because they’ve garnered so much attention that they are getting outside posters and not their core). Companies should recognize this when deciding how to respond to a web flair. I think Motrin did a good job in responding via their website and not making it a larger deal, like Aimee projected they would.

  17. Anca Bilegan Says: November 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I don’t have any children so maybe that’s why I didn’t consider Motrin’s ad offensive. Although I can see why some people got upset I still believe that the ad was funny rather then offensive.
    Motrin’s case proves that it is important to continually monitor what’s being said about your brand on the cyberspace. Katie Paine said: “one major reason to pay attention to what people are saying about you in social media is that most journalists today rely on blogs for story ideas, to check facts, track down rumors, and to investigate scandals”. There are at least three major newspapers that mentioned the Motrin moms today:
    The New York Times:
    The Washington Post:
    The Baltimore Sun:

  18. Shilpika Das Says: November 17, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Like many of you I didn’t find the ad particularly offensive, either. Tacky and lame, perhaps…

    But it’s surprising to see how, in a few hours, the whole issue turned into an online riot. It didn’t help that the campaign was launched just before the weekend and Motrin did not take the ad down from its website until Sunday evening. I would expect that the manufacturer of such a large brand would have a social media team in place, monitoring their brand online. A simple Google alert would have given them a head start.

    To give credit where it is due, I did notice that the official Motrin website now has an apology posted. The vice president of marketing also sent a note to bloggers issuing an apology Sunday night. I think it’s great that they are taking responsibility for it. The apology does sound genuine but I think the company still needs to do more in terms of damage control. Perhaps reach out via Twitter. There is an @motrinmoms account on Twitter, which appears to be fake. Maybe reaching out to this outraged group through Twitter and participating in the conversation may not be a bad place to start. I don’t think they have reached out via Facebook either. There is a Facebook Motrin Moms page, however, encouraging moms to stop using the product.

    I also like online reputation management expert, Andy Beal’s, advice: Find the most vocal detractors and bring them on board to quickly story-board an alternative video.

    Some media experts (and a lot of them weighed in) have also suggested that this fiasco may scare off organizations experimenting with social media. I beg to differ. If anything, it is encouraging to see the power of social media. It did not take long for the issue that started with a group of outraged moms to get picked up by mainstream media. The key, I guess, is using it to your advantage and harnessing the ‘people power’ of social media.

    I think Motrin has taken its cue from all the buzz. It will be interesting to watch if this actually affects Motrin’s Google search results. Unfortunately, the print ads are still out there.

    On the other hand, the viral video did manage to go viral……

  19. My God would those moms like some cheese with their whine!?!?! Ok so the ad wasn’t as “sensitive” or conscious about mommy-bloggers and their “bond” with their babies but I totally get the point they were trying to make. I am a mom and I used those God-awful Baby Bjorn slings which was bullshit because my frickin’ back hurt like the dickens if my kid was strapped to my chest for more than an hour at a time.

    It’s not as convenient as it seems or looks (at least in a conventional way) and to be frank it’s quite a pain in the ass putting your baby in and taking them out in the event you’re trying to shop, or need to change diapers and maneuver. God forbid your child falls asleep in that thing, now you’re lugging around dead weight. Not to mention they sweat, you sweat, you have instant hot flashes from the extra body heat and your feet feel heavier with each step you take. Even if I did have my carrier on I kept the stroller close by because my back, neck and shoulders would eventually need a break! Not to mention, between pre- and post-delivery, I had to have three epidural injections in my spine ( oh the joys of motherhood) so my back pain was no joke! I stayed loaded on meds because of that!

    I wasn’t offended at all and couldn’t care less to be honest. If anything the ad reminded me why I would never spend my money on that kind of device again. The part about “bonding” and being an “official mom” wasn’t that offensive but some people like to make a mountain out of a molehill. Who’s to say they (Motrin) didn’t take those sayings from previous blogs, or ads, or some other form of research/survey. I remember reading in a baby magazine (when I was pregnant) that wearing a sling is supposed to increase the mother-baby bond and that indeed encouraged me to buy one.

    Motrin could have taken a much different approach though; perhaps focus on the types of slings, carriers and harnesses, especially those that were designed to alleviate back pain by providing extra support for the mother and the baby. My carrier had a gazillion straps and it didn’t do a damn thing for my back.

    Who is to say Motrin didn’t do thorough research, especially on moms who don’t use slings and the like because of the strain it’s caused them? Maybe Motrin is counting on mother’s like me who have had bad experiences with baby-wearing and they’re saying to hell with those who may disagree with the ad. People are so quick to hop on the bandwagon…if that bandwagon went straight to hell would you hop on it then?

    When you’ve carried a baby for nine months, back pain is prevalent and inevitable throughout pregnancy. And when you’ve been on bed rest for the last 5 months of your pregnancy like I was and you attempt to use a sling or carrier, without much use of your muscles prior to delivery and partially thereafter, you are likely to experience pain and discomfort…I think they (Motrin) do feel my pain.

  20. Lindsey Brothers Says: November 18, 2008 at 7:17 am

    AdAge has a good post regarding the situation. Ironically this ad has been up since October but not until “celebrity bloggers” blog about it, did word get out and things changed.

  21. Now that I have seen the commercial, I could see how it could have offended moms, though I myself don’t find it offensive; possibly due to the fact that I’m not a mom. I do feel that the company could have used a different tactic in getting their message accross how motrin can be benificial to moms.

    I noticed the fact that motrin has officially apologized to those moms that took it offensively. Which is a good start; I agree with the comment that stated that they should go further and apologize to the moms on twitter.

    This deffenitely is a wake up call to Motrin that social media is out there and I’m sure from now on they will be more intuned. I think this is a good opportunity for Motrin to interact with those who took offense to the ad and ask them what they do to avoid pain and possibly survey them if the use any type of painkilers during motherhood. I’m sure there are a lot of moms like Mia that have experienced a lot of back pain and muscle aches from carrying a child.

    Though it’s hard to tell what Motrin will do, I do think positive or negative criticism is important. How else are we to know that there are others people’s needs that we have not spoken to. It’s the perfect learning opportunity and I believe Motrin is able to make then negative comments work for them.

  22. Me, like many others here, don’t find this ad particularly offensive either. The only thing that I could imagine pissing me off would be the first commercial line: wearing baby seems to be in a fashion”. I believe the majority of moms don’t “wear baby” to jump on the band wagon and join the fashion trend.

    I actually agree with Becky on the “publicity” part as well. Although it’s generating somewhat considered-to-be negative publicity, its name “Motrin” successfully became a related phrase to “Moms”. And I believe for some people, even with their impression on how Motrin pissed off them as moms, they might still pick up a Motrin product when they really encounter pain resulted from baby carrying since it might be the first brand name that pops out in their head.

    Back to the online issue management. Nowadays, it’s like 100 times harder than before to prevent negative publicity from spreading with technology as a prior communication channel for general audience (especially the segment who often seeks for information or who are opinion leaders). On contrary, it’s also easier to spread “the good”. It’s interesting to see those moms making videos to respond to the ad and speak out.

    In Taiwan, we have a huge “bbs forum” that stands as a podium on which you can talk about anything, any topic you want. What you say on the forum can immediately become news the next day. For communicators of our generation, major caution concerning online management is required when conducting any campaigns or controversial decisions. Because it’s really not fun to mess up with this online audience.

  23. Heather Lovett Says: November 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Like everyone else, I don’t get it. Not to offend the already offended mothers, but really? That’s the battle you want to choose? It’s an ad. Get over it. Good for you that your back doesn’t hurt from carrying your kids. If it does maybe Motrin can help. That’s what I got from it. I agree with Claire. The only thing that would remotely get me going about this (if I was super sensitive) is insinuating that I think carrying or slinging my baby on my back is for fashion. Parents carry their children. Sometime they push them in strollers. It’s not hip, it’s necessary. I’m almost offended that these mothers don’t have anything better to do than attack Motrin. If they have all this time why not try to save the world not their egos?

  24. I get it … well, sort of. If you upset, as Mark says, one of the most powerful blogging communities you will pay. Ask Nalgene and Avent how their pretty water bottles sold after the BPA issue hit the mommy blogs. There were lines at Baby’s R Us for weeks with people returning bottles. A few moms changed an entire industry in less than a year, despite the fact that the BPA debate had been ongoing for 20 years. Perception is reality and when it comes to children, I have three, you act first and ask questions later.

  25. All I have to say is when you read the comments on Twitter, you can’t do anything else but to agree that suits and “marketing people” should no be making marketing campaigns decisions such as this, when they are not truly involved on social networking. Nowdays, grassroot campaigning is as important as the big bucks ads. And the easiest way to do grassroot campaigns is via social media.

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