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The Motrin Mom Wave: It’s Not a Tsunami

The Motrin Moms are everywhere.

It’s not what I’d intended, nor what I’d hoped for, but I do think it’s a reasonable outcome. It’s not for the reasons you might imagine.

This is a wave and not a tsunami. The Ad was the wind and the mommies gathered steam. As we came crashing onto the shore, there was foam and whitewash (the site went dead for several hours) and then it all receded.

An apology was posted online, and it was an authentic one too. The message has been criticized as “not good enough” I suspect it’s Ms. Widmer’s voice, and it was reasonably swift, but will still be picked apart.


Every beach kid knows that waves come in sets. Unfortunately, yesterday’s wave had me (and other Motrin Moms) being called hideous names by all the usual suspects. Fortunately none of those are voices I’m courting, they didn’t matter and I don’t care.

Today’s wave is the third and largest of the set. I assure you it won’t knock me off of my feet. I grew up on the beach and I know the tide, I’m standing sideways, like my mother taught me to. This wave will pass me by and I’d urge everyone to hold their breath and get splashed. Trying to swim against the largest waves in the ocean will only drown you.

Today is the day when the other women come out and call me silly. Ladies, I will not fight with you. The hate mail has turned dismissive. I’m “ridiculous” because this isn’t an issue worth an argument.

It is.

The more I speak, the less you listen. So I’m whispering now. I’m not doing the Mommy Wars. I won’t have it and I won’t feed the machine. Because the real Tsunami, the only thing that could knock me off my feet is if I engage in the most ridiculous of all arguments. And that’s where this is headed.

Did Motrin really need to take the ad down?

No, I dont think so.

Yes, I really did say that. Much has been written about how the company (and every brand and every person) ought to monitor their reputation online.

Here’s what Motrin could have done (super cheap too by the way):

  • Added a voting button next to the Ad, do you think it’s funny? – diffuses the hostile tone
  • Responded on Twitter, one bucket of water could have quenched the fire
  • Spent the day Monday sewing/ironing/silk screening the Motrin Logo onto baby carriers and giving them to Mommy Bloggers. Can you imagine? It would’ve worked too.
  • Posting a link to International Baby Wearing Week, and then we’d know they “get it”

Never before in history have mothers been so cruelly picked apart. Never before has every choice we’ve made been questioned, held up to ridicule and mocked.

We’re not a humorless bunch, but infancy is off limits.

24 thoughts on “The Motrin Mom Wave: It’s Not a Tsunami”

  1. jessica, agreed. don’t engage, it fuels the fire and is counterproductive. sometimes women are each other’s worst enemies. so much for sisterhood ; )

    some advice; don’t take it personally. when you go out on a limb you need thick skin. your suggestions for the brand were excellent.

    but i cannot let this go uncommented:

    “Never before in history have mothers been so cruelly picked apart.”

    if only!! talk to some moms who chose to work in the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s and ask them about being judged. this is NOTHING compared to that.

    my kids were young in the 90’s and believe me, the picture on your desk was the most you reference you would make to your kids in the workplace lest you be judged not committed enough to the job.

    the power of social media hit a serendipitous tipping point with this issue. let’s find ways to harness its vast opportunities and let go of the catalyst, for that is all it truly was.

  2. Jessica-

    I am not privy to the whole Motrinmom debacle, but there is nothing more engaging than your proactivity! Good for you for being passionate. You are a great ally.

  3. I’m glad you shared your opinion, and I’m glad Motrin is ending the ad campaign. No, they don’t have to, but an ad that insults customers isn’t good for them, so they are making a sound business decision. Of course there are many important things to have opinions about in the world…and one of them is basic respect for ourselves and other people. Refusing to be quietly and dismissively reduced to a empty stereotype falls into this category.

    I’d love to see similar momentum around the offensive VW campaign with Brooke Shields. In the ads she insults pregnant women who are looking at a minivan, saying that they are having babies just for the opportunity to buy the car. Bringing children into the world is a joyous experience, which certainly has humor associated with it. This premise, however, isn’t funny. Saying that the ad is supposed to be sarcasm doesn’t defend it because part of what makes sarcasm effective as a humorous or rhetorical device is that it builds off an element of truth. So just like the Motrin ad, the VW ads imply that there is some truth to its premise. To make things even worse, the commercials specifically ascribes these offensive actions to the pregnant women.

    Check it out and please blog about it, and pass on the word.

  4. Dear Jessica,
    You have ever right to be offended at whatever you see fit. You have every right to speak your mind. But do you really think Motrin aimed to put down motherhood and babies with their ad? They simply wanted to sell ibuprofen. They missed the mark with this ad for a lot of people. I hate to say it may have struck a chord with many who would not speak up because of fear of reprocussions from venerable mommybloggers with power.
    I’m sure the ad has been pulled…so you are right. This was a ripple. Time to move forward. Kudos to you for knowing that.

  5. I think the suggestions you had at the end of your post were quite constructive and helpful. To me, the company has demonstrated it has some ability to use social media tools but could build better relationships with moms who communicate online. We’ll see what their next move is.

  6. “Never before in history have mothers been so cruelly picked apart. Never before has every choice we’ve made been questioned, held up to ridicule and mocked.

    We’re not a humorless bunch, but infancy is off limits.”

    Interesting. It appears to me that the old double standard “do as I say, not as I do rule is in full force here.

    I could probably name at least a dozen or more mommiebloggers who have written at one point or another about their babies ruining their figures, their sleep patterns, their sex lives, their clothes, their furniture, their fancy european sedans, their ability to think clearly…all in jest of course. A mommy would never mock herself or cruelly pick herself apart.


  7. While I appreciate your feelings as a mom, nearly all of the moms I showed these videos to felt they were cute and harmless. However, once told that these were offensive videos, nearly all mothers I showed them to found them offensive.

    I think this was the real impact of the twitter buzz. it put the brand and the creative in a pre-defined lens.

    To that end, as a marketer, I can’t help but wonder how this bubbled up offline, how the buzz translates. Because as a marketer, it’s hard to quantify impact without perspective. Would love to get your passionate feedback on how you believe digital buzz impacts the broader marketplace.

  8. Hi Jessica,

    Well written post and I feel that you’re strongly entitled to your opinion.

    Coming from the world of online marketing, you have to forgive Motrin for not embracing your “Here’s what Motrin could have done (super cheap too by the way):” ideas.

    Motrin took a risk with the ad, one they probably thought was a low one. After all of the negative excitement, they opted for the safest way out.

    Many big brands are just venturing into the Twitter world and less formal means of communications. It’s a scary time for them. Before, there was some control of the message, even in the social media that comprises the “letters to the editor” section of a magazine or newspaper.

    Now, anyone can post their thoughts online for the world to see. Anonymity has made the crazy kid handing out ‘zines on the corner the next or Perez Hilton (for the record, I do not think you’re a crazy kid or Perez Hilton, just giving broad examples).

    What I’m trying to get across is that the online world has made marketing a scary place for those involved, even if they’re not marketing themselves online. Look at the Anonymous comment from someone above hating the VW Brooke Shields ads. In the ads, it’s obvious that they’re a joke and the moms involved disregard what Brooke is saying.

    But could people take offense and blow this to the proportions of what happened with Motrin? Definitely.

  9. i just came across this “mommy war” – i never comment on stuff i come across on the internet mainly because i don’t have time. i don’t have time because i am bust raising my children and being a good mother and wife to waste my valuable time. i have kids. i have worn them. it causes pain after a while (which is the point motrin was making. but in the bigger scheme of life, for you and the mothers engaged in this “war against motrin” to waste your time on something like this is pathetic and time consuming. you should go back to your life. maybe go outside. play with your kids. be a good mother and wife and stop wasting your time complaining. i’m sure your husband would appreciate it.

  10. Mom of two (plus 3 dogs)

    Wow, you guys just don’t get it do you? All your “twitter” gave them more advertising than the original ad ever would have done. Take the moral high road and ignore it!

  11. Nice post. I think the ways to improve the ad/constructive criticism was something missing throughout the buzz over the weekend and the majority of blog posts related to this.

    Help marketers help you and always try to offer suggestions on how to “fix” things vs. just blasting a campaign. Whether it shows or not, we spend countless hours planning even the smallest one.

  12. You know something, Jessica? I saw the twitters and never saw the ad. We all have a right to free speech and our opinions and hell, even our blogs to say what we feel. And if enough people feel strongly enough about something, we can cause a change.

    A woman at a hugely popular diner in Dallas told me one time as we were waiting to be seated (a 2 hour wait for breakfast!) that I’ve repeated over and over again, “The squeakiest wheel gets the grease.” You guys were the squeakiest wheel and you got the grease so to speak. Good for you!

    As a mother, I never “wore” my boy. I tried. Slings, carriers, you name it. It didn’t work for me. I cannot believe that of all things to get riled up about, wearing a baby in a carrier is what was chosen. Seriously? I don’t care how you hold your baby… As long as you hold your baby. And bond with your baby. And don’t abandon your baby.

    There is always someone out there who has to defend their behavior even when no one is directing anything at them (the anti-baby wearing brigade). Most of the time, the attackers are ones who do feel guilty for their choices, so they have to speak loudly and rudely to defend it (to themselves maybe?).

    Oh, and I don’t buy Motrin. Once generic was introduced, I bought that. Or got the heavy-duty prescriptions from my doc!

    And to anyone telling my friend that she and other moms should take more time to raise their children instead of blogging? I am sorry for you. You don’t get it and you never will.

  13. Glad to see this post Jessica. It’s great that someone in the center of the firestorm can also give some constructive advice to the target of the attack. There are those in Social Media who are putting out shingles to advise companies how to avoid these situations. Then there are those who are teaching the companies by disciplining them in public. You’ve done both which shows guts and the ability to reflect thoughtfully and strategically – I’d hire you!

  14. I work on gang issues professionally. This year, something like 300 young people will be KILLED in your city alone, Jessica, by gang-related violence.

    And THIS is what you choose to get your panties in a wad about?


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