Mighty Red Pen

November 19, 2008

A pain in the neck

Filed under: Mad marketing,Pop culture — mighty red pen @ 8:00 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m not exaggerating when I say the moms are up in arms about this Motrin ad, which I learned about today from a colleague. Take a look:

Motrin Mom Babywearing Ad

In a nutshell, the ad pitches Motrin to moms, specifically those who “wear” their babies in slings, carriers, etc., and who may be experiencing pain from doing so. Narrated in the first person by a “mom” who loves to carry her tot but sometimes gets aches and pains from lugging the sweet dear around, the ad suggests that suffering moms can pop a Motrin or two so they can keep on keeping on.

From what I gather, objections range from accusations that Motrin doesn’t understand, support, or respect moms to outrage at the suggestion that babywearing–if done correctly–results in back pain. YouTube is littered with response videos, for example, this one and this one. In fact, the response has been so strong that Motrin has stopped running the ad and issued an apology. Check that out at Motrin.com or at Seth Godin.

I’m absolutely stunned by the response to this ad and what seems like an unbelievable misreading of the campaign. As a mom who “wore” her babies not too long ago, I didn’t find the ad disrespectful or condescending at all. I wore my baby carriers as directed and I would be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally have a back or shoulder ache after lugging my little one around for a couple of hours. Nothing a little Motrin couldn’t handle.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when executives at Motrin decided to cave in to the demands of an ill-informed segment of the population. Is it a case of where it doesn’t so much matter that the perception was wrong but simply that it existed?



  1. Even as someone who’s not a mom, I got it. The beginning and end make slings look like a fashion statement. “Seems to be in fashion,” and “It totally makes me look like an official mom” were the offending phrases.

    I can’t say I’m shocked then people on the internet get riled up about something I don’t care about, but the ad needed a little tweaking to avoid the misunderstanding.

    Yet nobody’s up in arms when TV portrays us dads as dumb…

    Comment by johnwroachiii — November 20, 2008 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  2. The problem was that the ad portrayed babywearing as something women do (just women — not men) to be more fashionable and to obtain “official mom” status. It blew off actual research showing that babies who are carried *do* cry less than babies who spend their time in infant carseats. It was actually a huge blow to people who make and sell baby carriers by its insistence that wearing a baby in a carrier *has* to hurt — putting “a ton” of strain on your back? That’s a big, bit claim right there. But if you’re wearing a carrier that is fitted well to your build and your baby’s age, it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, you need to get help and/or a different carrier.

    Overall, the ad was cavalier and condescending. I wasn’t offended per se, but I was annoyed with it. It made babywearing moms sound like tired, crazy, masochistic freaks who are concerned only with their appearance, and that’s not cool. The vast majority of moms — and dads! — who use carriers do so because they make our lives easier. The ad totally ignored the research behind babywearing as a parenting tool, and that was what had most of us up in arms.

    For more (and better) info, please see here: http://babywearinginternational.org/

    Comment by Jan Andrea — November 20, 2008 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  3. Even the wikipedia article on “babywearing” states that:

    “Slings can also be a fashion statement. They come in many different designs and colors and are available in many different types of materials, including silk, hemp, cotton, wool, fleece, and flax/linen.”

    Doesn’t looking nicer/cooler/more professional or whatever *also* make your life easier? Just because you take pride in your appearance doesn’t make you a narcissist. And aren’t parents of infants tired, crazy and masochistic by definition?

    Also, “a ton of strain” is hyperbolic cliché, it’s not a literal accusation.

    Comment by tk. — November 20, 2008 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  4. I think the ad was stupid.

    But I couldn’t work up much outrage over it.

    Although, if others could… well, I admire them.

    Now I urge them to consider taking up the cause of, say, the environment so that when they let their kids out of the sling, the kids can have a safe place to stand.

    Comment by David — November 20, 2008 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

  5. […] red pen @ 2:20 pm Tags: advertising, babywearing, Motrin MRP here with more on the odd and oddly controversial Motrin ad campaign. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I wasn’t at all down with the huge brouhaha being generated […]

    Pingback by Haven’t got time for the pain « Mighty Red Pen — November 29, 2008 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  6. David, just because people get up in arms about one thing doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they’re in arms against. I personally give to about 12 different charities (it’s so hard to choose…), including environmental ones. You’re only seeing one part of many individuals’ advocacy here. I don’t think any of us (babywearers) wrote to Motrin and then sat back and said, “Well, my work here is done!” and then proceeded to ignore issues of real importance. It’s just not like that.

    Comment by Jan Andrea — November 29, 2008 @ 7:23 pm | Reply

  7. Jan, hon, I was being snide. I just have trouble seeing what has gotten some people so upset with the Motrin folks. Frankly, if I were going to write them, it would be to complain about the pricing of the products when identical generics are less than half as expensive. Damn the advertising theme — these people are ripping you off.

    Comment by David — December 1, 2008 @ 10:50 am | Reply

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