By now, many of you will have heard of THE social media flameout of 2008 "Motrin Moms". An initial tribe of Twitter moms initially flexed their anger and many of the social media pundits have jumped on the pile, chimed in and suggested that Motrin should have known better and that all this could have been avoided. I'm not as sure.
The summary version is Motrin produced an ad about baby wearing carriers and the pain they may cause and the opportunity for Motrin to provide relief. Whether it was the smart-alecky tone of voice of the spot or the misguided insight that baby carriers might be the issue, the ad caught a group of well-connected women very raw and they have now shouted back in the thousands. Witness comments here:
Unlike previous social media infernos, Motrin neither lied (Sony), deceived about their identity (Wal-Mart), endangered/inconvenienced a city (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) or provided dubious insider tips (Whole Foods). It was simply an ad. As ads go, it was more intriguing than most...perhaps with the same ad executed poorly, we might have never noticed it.
Furthermore, Motrin - a division of J&J, actually had an ad with interesting insight, it was colourfully and creatively executed, it was trying to target an audience that was influential to its business and one can assume had noble intent for creating a conversation and dialogue with that audience. Doesn't sound like bad credentials? Most creative we see on TV doesn't come close to having these merits.
So they messed up and executed poorly and yes, perhaps they didn't show it to enough people beforehand and maybe they would have been better served by engaging a community of thousands of women to evaluate the ad in advance and come to their defence if required. All good points some self-servingly raised by the social media -vested.
But to use Allen Iversen's repeated tirade "we're talking about an ad, I mean we're talking about an ad. This is what I'm talking about an ad." They didn't dump oil in the oceans, insider trade or hired underage workers overseas. They produced an ad, that resonated poorly.
Some people in social media, particularly those on Twitter are championing this as the power of the human voice and are pointing to social media's defining moment of influence. They may be right but this is not a corporate-sized Obama. This is the type of change we don't need - nobody wins - moms are offended, Motrin takes it on the chin and other companies who were fence sitting now avoid social media like the plague.
If companies can't participate in this medium, then who is going to pay the freight. Are you going to pay for social media content? Didn't think so.
Let's be clear -the ad was wrong, Motrin is now doing the right thing, apologizing and perhaps regrettably somebody will take the fall. Potentially they can generate good debate and make something out of a clear PR disaster. But please don't anybody celebrate this. Don't anybody gloat over Motrin's mistake - this one was not as avoidable as the previous social media debacles.
This is bad for the progress of marketing to become more open. This is bad for open source, web 2.0 developments in business and this is bad for social media in the long run. Motrin - I feel your pain.