Since the Motrin ad campaign broke this weekend (h/t Jessica Gottlieb with more excellent recaps at at Pistachio and Twitter Maven) I’ve been bombarded with emails (okay, two) asking me what I thought of it. You know, because I’m in advertising and we all know each other.
Wait, actually that’s true. We do.
Which is kind of making me a little nervous because the creative team might in fact be people I know and respect and would have to get drunk one night and then slap them upside the head and ask them what the hell they were thinking.
It’s worth watching to get the full effect, but here’s the transcript:
Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory it’s a great idea. There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free. Supposedly [insert air quotes here] it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the body tend to cry less than others. But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don’t? I sure do! These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back? I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my kid. Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Motrin missed the boat. I mean, they close the ad with the tag line, Motrin. We feel your pain.
Why that line makes no sense at all! That line almost sounds like it was written for a campaign that demonstrates some level of empathy with parents.
The script is just calling for a line that “closes the circle” and completes the story.
Motrin. Because you can’t have an epidural every day of the week.
Motrin. Your body just ain’t what it used to be. Sucks for you.
Motrin. It’s like totally what, like, all the official moms are taking.
Motrin. For parents who long for the days that they only got body aches from dancing all night and doing coke.
Motrin. Quit yer whining, woman.
Snide remarks aside–I’ll leave that to the thousands of moms on twitter who are going nuts right now if you search #motrinmoms–I’m actually feeling Motrin’s own pain right now. They have an awesome brand, a tried-and-true product, and a very smart idea at its core: Motrin works on the pain that only mothers understand.
What the campaign is missing is the love.
And that’s not something that can be captured in a single throwaway line about being willing to endure pain for your kid.
It’s not easy to do snarky well when you’re talking about parenting. Popular blogs like Motherhood Uncensored, Finslippy, Baby on Bored, White Trash Mom, Laid off Dad, and Metrodad to name a few, are not popular simply because they illuminate the ups and downs of parenting with brutal, hilarious honesty, but because they do it through the eyes of parents who truly, deeply love their children. It’s the rare writer who can capture the negatives without bitterness, who can elaborate on the hell without sounding, well, like a 34 year-old male copywriter who’s never had a kid. Whether or not that’s actually the case.
There are some good freaking writers on parenting blogs. They connect with thousands of parents every day. And none of them are making nearly what creatives in ad agencies are making.
Maybe that should change.
Update: I just received an official statement by email from Kathy Widmer, McNeil’s VP of Marketing
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 newstands and in distribution.
And now I think it’s time for the twittering to callllm down just a bit, for everyone to stop calling for the company’s head on a platter, and allow them to make amends. After all, we do like our ibuprofen, right?
One more update, via a friend at the ad agency: The copywriter is no longer with the agency.
She’s on maternity leave.