Motrin’s Pain: Viral Video Disaster

By Brian Wendel

The economy is in a slump. Companies are worried how they are going to meet next quarter’s profits. So McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the largest consumer company within Johnson & Johnson, chose to hire an ad agency to come up with a viral video campaign that was supposed to be fresh and inspiring and to boost Motrin sales.

Enter the “Motrin Moma-Alogue” campaign.

The results: a slick online video narrated by a snarky woman saying babywearing on a sling, the shwing, the pouch, whatever, is fashionable and “supposedly it’s a real bonding experience” but moms that wear their babies “cry more.” But don’t worry mommies of the world “Motrin feels your pain.” They are here to help.

Motrin Mom Babywearing Ad

Two days after the advertising push and receiving online backlash, Motrin pulled the campaign and is now begging the mommy-blogging nation for forgiveness.

See Motrin apology

Oh yeah, this viral video worked in the sense that it went viral but not in the way Motrin was hoping for. Just hours after the campaign launched moms began blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook updates about how offensive the new Motrin campaign is to mothers.

Talk about a PR disaster.

More than 100 blogs featured headlines such as “Motrin Makes Moms Mad” to “Motrin Giving Moms a Headache.”

Click here to see the comments

The campaign was an attempt to connect with moms through the common experience (and pain) of carrying a child. But the implication felt by some of its vocal critics was that moms wear their babies as fashion accessories, or because it “totally makes me look like an official mom.”

Did the ad agency bother to consult real moms and test this concept? Did any PR or marketing executives who happen to be mothers and work for McNeil/Motrin bother to look at this campaign?

How did this concept even make the storyboards?

Whether you like it or not, your customers have as much, if not more control than you do over your brand. Marketing people everywhere need to learn to love that. They also need to be joined at the hip with their PR people.

I can’t imagine the headache waiting for the Motrin PR person each morning.

This is just the beginning.

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