Prev Next

“Motrin Moms” and the Case of “MotrinGate”

By Isabel Kallman

Picture%2076.pngIf you already know what my headline means just skip the rest of this paragraph. If not, first watch the Motrin commercial, for now available on YouTube. Motrin, maker of the famous pain reliever, set off a “Twitter Storm” this weekend when it launched a viral video/ commercial suggesting that moms use Motrin to relieve the pain of wearing their babies in slings/ baby carriers.
Within hours of the commercial’s release, moms were Twittering, blogging and making video responses (see video below) to how downright insulted they were by Motrin’s video. And, rightly so.
Motrin’s commercial fell flat on many levels, but perhaps the most egregious was equating babywearing to a fashion, albeit painful, statement. Akin to wearing stilettos. I am so tired of babies being equated to accessories. The mainstream media (which is generally out of touch) is forever doing this. ANY implication is just downright insulting. Yes, there is a baby boom happening in this country but it has nothing to do with Brangelina. It’s because Gen Y is a much larger generation than Gen X. Do the math. Parents are not having babies because it’s fashionable.
Moreover, I remember back when I first launched Alpha Mom, just a few years ago, babywearing was not as ubiquitous as it is today. In fact, babywearing was seen as an “alternative” parenting style (and not always portrayed positively) as opposed to today when it’s just another common and practical decision most moms make. Kind of like, am I going to use Motrin or Tylenol? So, when Motrin comes out and says that babywearing causes back pain? Ooooh, that’s not only wrong, but also re-opening a sore spot.
So, going back to MotrinGate….
As Twitter went ablaze and tweets about Motrin tagged as #motrinmoms climbed to the #1 position in Twitter, social media watchers like Robert Scoble and Mashable started picking up on the protest. Then big time media like FastCompany picked up the story. My bet is it makes Brandweek or the likes, much like Camp BabyGate did back in March.
Unfortunately for Motrin, not one peep from their team until late Sunday night almost 24 hours after the social media brouhaha started. Since then, the Motrin website has been down and an official apology sent personally to those who submitted email complaints.
Most of the blog posts I have read about the Motrin debacle have suggested steps for Motrin and its PR/ Marketing team in this weekend’s wake. They have included making a formal apology. They have included suggestions for hiring social-media-savvy moms. Some have said forget the “focus group.”
That last one particularly got my attention because I doubt this Motrin commercial was shown to a “focus group” of moms. Two weeks ago we launched Alphamom Labs to connect our community of moms with the marketers who want to know how to improve their products and services. And, we’re also in conversations with companies who want to refine their marketing messages by dialogging with real moms through Alphamom Labs. These companies are proud of the products they create for families and they want to make sure that in the short time that they have a mom’s attention, that she will be able to understand their product or service clearly.
It’s too late in the evening and I’m too tired to find the reference right now, but one pretty famous and successful example of testing advertising and marketing messages on a target audience is the uber-successful Axe men’s personal care product ad campaign by Unilever. As I understand it, no Axe ad campaign or video ever gets released unless their “focus group” of real Axe guys approve it. As the story goes, the top Unilever brass was very much concerned about some really racy and controversial commercials but their real Axe guys LOVED them, so Unilever management got out of the way and the advertising campaigns have gone on to be a huge success for the company.
I guess the key takeaway for Motrin from that example is that if you are going to release a viral web video, please make sure you position it for web moms and their values.
In conclusion (because I’m really boring myself now) I will leave you with one tactical crisis management suggestion that I think is terrific. Gwen Bell suggests (she’s not a mom, but she sure does understand us):

I have an idea for what Motrin could do to appease #motrinmoms. Make a new vid – of the male execs #babywearing as they go about their day.

Personally, I love me some ibuprofen (when I need it, that is). So, I hate to see stumbles like this from makers of a fine product.
I’m sure Motrin will continue with the mea culpas. But I sure would like to see them make that video Gwen suggested. Now, that would be fun.
As promised, the video response by Katja Presnal:

Photo credit: Mom-101
Tween Girl Gift Giveaways

Each day this week (starting December 8) you can enter to win an awesome prize at our partner site for tween girls, AllyKatzz.
Just head over there and enter your email address (and confirm that you are over 18).
If you are the lucky daily winner, they will contact you via email to get your mailing address to send you your prize. Simple! And since they are our BFF, we trust their word that they we will not give your email address to anyone. They are a SAFE site for tween girls. They NEVER share personal info.


Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ms. Single Mama

Awesome post!
Yes, without my sling – I would probably be in a mental ward somewhere. I’m not sure I’ll quit using Motrin, but I definitely won’t be hiring their ad agency.


Great assessment Isabel.
Mostly I was seeing people implying that it wasn’t shown to a focus group. Or worse, that the babywearing insight was derived from a focus group then misinterpreted by a creative team who might not have been personally familiar with the concept.
I think they should keep going with the campaign, with funny insightful scripts, with the line “We feel your pain”- which is really write smart. Only they need scripts that better align with their audience’s values.
And maybe a voice over who doesn’t sound 22.