Corporate Eye

Corporate Ad Gets in Trouble: Motrin Apologizes to Moms

How does your corporate media stand up to consumer sensitivity and awareness? Do you know what it is that your customers want, really want, and more importantly what they do not want? Being aware and sensitive to the needs of customers can be challenging along with staying cutting edge and in tune with today’s market. It takes a smart, sharp but edgey marketing department to know what will appeal to consumers and what could possibly turn them off.

Let’s say that your marketing department has a great idea for a marketing piece, one that they think would do well in reaching the mass audience of buyers for your product. Now, let’s also say that your product is used by millions and does its job well in satisfying their customers. And finally, let’s say that the corporate marketing department thinks that this ad campaign will be so appealing and so innovative, that sales will likely increase from it and the demand for the product will increase as well. Now, let’s see if what you “say” in the ad will actually deliver. Herein is where the issue lies: What we say or what is said in advertising is crucial to the marketing impact that is made with consumers.

Earlier on last week, Motrin made a huge mistake when they ran an ad, attempting to appeal to moms who “wear” their babies on their bodies. The ad suggested that these moms were “tired” and “cranky” and are just burdened down with being connected to their babies all of the time. In the ad video made by Motrin, there is quite a bit of subliminal messaging to the listener suggesting that because you co-wear your baby, you are in pain all of the time, and you shouldn’t be held accountable for anything that you might do or say that could be potentially offensive. Motrin could not have made a more offensive move than putting this advertisement out to the consumer. But, after a series of tweets, a flurry of emails, backlashes from bloggers and phone complaints, they immediately offered a statement of apology and promptly removed the ad from their site. This apology was done in a response to consumers and moms lashing out against these claims made by Motrin that co-wearing the baby is “undesirable” or “burdensome” to moms.  

When companies goof up and make statements or ads like this, it can be unfortunate to their business and to their reputation. Now the only thing that saved Motrin in this case was the fact that they acknowledged their error, offered an immediate apology to those offended and removed the ad from their site:

I am the Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare. I have responsibility for the Motrin Brand, and am responding to concerns about recent advertising on our website. I am, myself, a mom of 3 daughters.

We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising. Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies. We believe deeply that moms know best and we sincerely apologize for disappointing you. Please know that we take your feedback seriously and will take swift action with regard to this ad. We are in process of removing it from our website. It will take longer, unfortunately, for it to be removed from magazine print as it is currently on newsstands and in distribution.


Kathy Widmer
VP of Marketing – Pain, Pediatrics, GI, Specialty
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

The apology offered by the Vice President of Marketing seems and sounds very sincere and well thought out. But I think what the company has learned from this grave error is to never assume anything about an audience or consumers. I personally have never co-worn any of my babies but I have carried them around all day, nursed them and have done my fair share of stooping over to pick up toys, tend to boo-boos and find imaginary ghosts in their closets. Tired? Sure, but to imply that because I’m cranky or worn from being a mommy to my children and that somehow taking Motrin will make it all better is by far an offensive thing to suggest. Motrin isn’t strong enough! Seriously though, moms are generally happy to hurt for their children and don’t always lash out against others because of our fatigue and overwhelmed feelings. It’s all a part of the job description. While we do and will need something on occasion for our discomfort, we want to be the ones to make that choice and determine that point. When a company says that they sympathize and understand what you’re feeling, you may have a hard time believing them. Every mom is different just as every consumer is different. Bottom line: don’t assume anything.

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Bridget Wright

Writer, Blogger
I am a freelance writer, blogger and professional motivational speaker. I primarily focus on business content, offering my clients strategic marketing strategies for their businesses. I have been an entrepreneur for over 13 years, after having worked extensively in corporate America.