Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitterers, Bloggers Praise Motrin for Giving Them Something to Do Last Weekend

Good thing we’ve resolved the global financial crisis, the global terror crisis, and the global warming crisis. Otherwise the blogosphere wouldn’t have had time to rail about a Web video ad campaign from Motrin over the weekend.

The story: Big pharma Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has rolled out a Web clip (below) in which a snarky, knowing commentator gripes about the social pressure to “wear” babies in slings, carriers, etc–and the Motrin-ready aches that “wearing” a baby can cause. And in the last few days lots of blogger/Twitterers have agreed that:

  • The ad is offensive.
  • Motrin/JNJ doesn’t “get” social marketing.
  • Something should be done! Maybe a boycott.

How many bloggers/Twitterers are actually complaining about this? And are there enough to hurt JNJ, which made an estimated $1 billion in profit from Motrin each year? Mmmmmmaybe.

Tools like Google’s blog search and Twitter’s Summize search will tell you that, yes, some number of people are chattering about this on the Web. And as of 8:07 a.m. Monday, the Motrin.com site was down, whatever that means. But from what I can tell, only a few thousand people have actually seen the ad on Google’s (GOOG) YouTube. I’ve asked video watcher TubeMogul for info on the ad’s audience and will update when I get it.

But even if the outrage is widespread, it’s going to be hard make a connection between online chatter and real-world results. Otherwise Ron Paul would be the 44th President of the United States.

Meanwhile, at the risk of a cyber-stoning, let me say that I don’t think the ad–which seems to be aiming at the same set of people who buy very expensive strollers but feel a bit conflicted about doing so–is an outrage. And neither does the person who does most of the baby-wearing in my house.

I ran it by her in the twilight hours this morning, between feedings, and she shrugged: “It’s true.” Then she went back to sleep.

UPDATE: Twitter Moms unite! JNJ has apologized, and is very, very sorry. Kathy Widmer sends Forbes.com this mea culpa:

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.”

Lesson: Carping on Twitter does indeed work. Sometimes.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus