To catch you up, Motrin posted the below ad and people, particularly baby-carrying mothers, were so offended that the makers of Motrin pulled the ad.
Many of the offended people (“Motrin Moms” there were dubbed) were on Twitter, as well as blogs and YouTube. As a result, marketers are starting to get scared of social media, just as social media is taking off as a legitimate communications approach.
But another way of looking at it is, better the Motrin ad underwent a social media firestorm than a mass media firestorm. Sure the situation was embarrassing, but in sheer numbers this was a small audience of offended persons in the relatively small percentage of the population currently using social media in any significant way. As a baby-carrying dad, the ad made what I thought were obvious errors in execution: cute language and slick typography doesn’t mask the fact that the ad includes copy insulting to the people it’s trying to sell to. But the advertiser obviously needed more feedback to understand this, and they got it — without it offending even larger numbers of people with a larger campaign. From this perspective looking at social media as a testing platform, it was a success.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the makers of Motrin, or their agency, Taxi, obviously weren’t prepared for this possibility as the Motrin site was completely down in the midst of the situation. We can easily imagine an ad (or a product) that was launched specifically in social media channels to test the waters, and modified or changed quickly based on the feedback. But this requires a company to be in touch with it’s consumers, and what we saw this week is Motrin Moms telling the company “you clearly don’t understand me.”