Monday, November 17, 2008

The ad missed its mark but I'm still a Motrin Mom

Motrin really put their foot in it, didn't they? They jumped feet first into the babywearing phenomenon in their latest ad and came out smelling like a full diaper pail that had spent two weeks festering in the hot sun.

By now you've probably heard all about it - the Motrin ad that caused such a commotion among moms on the internet. I hadn't spent much time on the internet this weekend, so when I opened twitter and noticed the #motrinmoms tag on every other tweet (twit?) I was all "What the hell?". Not wanting to be left out of the latest brouhaha, I searched twitter and Google and was bombarded with posts about Motrin and their latest add targeted to moms, specifically those who babywear. At first I rolled my eyes, because... Really? Not again. Not another kerfuffle about how we mothers are looked down upon! How we seen as inspidid breeders who live our lives through our children while whining the whole time! *shakes fist* Oh, the humanity!

(For the record, most kerfuffles - can I say that again? Kerfuffle. - have been warranted. Mommy wars? Breastfeeding? Warranted.)

This won't make me popular, but I think we should give Motrin a break. Sure, I get angry when someone tells me I shouldn't breastfeed my baby in public. That's worth getting irate about, in my opinion. The ad, though remotely insulting, did not start a fire in me like it seemed to in so (so, so, so) many others.

I believe "Meh" was my reaction.

I tried. I tried to be outraged. I even showed it to Mr. C., my barometer in all things such as these, and he looked at me after viewing it and said, "What? I don't get it." All the fuss? Yeah, it didn't seem to be a big deal.

Seriously, are we hating that much on Motrin and their ag agency because of a sixty second advertisement? They have a great product, a product that does what it says. To be cliche, a name you can trust. I for one use it regularly for back pain. I also used it for post pardum uterine contractions. Now that would have made for a good ad - Ow, my uterus hurts. Pass the Motrin.

But after thinking about it some more it seemed to me that the ad itself wasn't as important as the collective voices of mothers (and fathers too) on the internet who said, "We don't like this and we're not going to stand for it!" I'm very proud today to be in the company of those who were outraged enough to scream and holler until Motrin finally pulled the ad, their head hanging in shame and their tail between their legs. How proud I am today, indeed. Not in myself, who was too busy shaking my head about all I deemed proposterous, but of you. You who raised your voice and made something happen.

The message of the ad, in my opinion, is still not worth the outrage but I do think we need to get to the bottom of what made so many so angry.

Was it the choice of voice over, the "Oh Mah Gawd. Like, totally." delivery? The whiny "What about Meee?" message? Or the fact that babywearing was called fashionable?

I don't know the answers to those questions, I'm just throwing things out there and seeing what sticks.

Sure, the woman was a sad stereotype. The whiny mother who chooses to do it all for her child but whines about it the whole time. I've got news for you, she who has not written a blog post, a tweet, an update on Facebook, or even sat over coffee with her girlfriends and complained about her kids with a tinge of whine while professing her love for her offspring can throw the first stone. We whine sometimes. We complain. And that's okay. We're allowed because this mothering thing is damn hard work and if we didn't whine we'd be hitting the wine by 10am every morning. But stereotypes don't appear from thin air, they are based in reality and then bastardized and lampooned and turned into caricatures of the originator. But they begin somewhere. The ad agency who took that and ran with it ought to be ashamed of themselves to trivialize what I see to be a strength, in that we can allow ourselves, unlike our mothers and their mothers before them, to show our weaknesses. To admit that we want our pain, both physical, mental and emotional, to be agknowledged. But the character was based in truth. Sorry.

Maybe it's the babywearing-as-fashion angle. Is babywearing a fashion? Is it all the rage? If you pick up a gossip rag it might seem so to the casual observer. So, yeah, it is, by definition, fashionable to wear a baby today. I prefer to think of it as a positive trend that started decades ago (in this country. All over the world it is not only done, but necessary) but has gained in popularity. Or better yet - a Movement. Much more empowering than suggesting that wearing ones baby is akin to wearing a pair of skinny jeans.

Taking from my own experiences with babywearing, I have no problem admitting that when registering for baby items before Chicky was born I had no idea what a sling was. We only registered for a Bjorn because that's what everyone else seemed to be doing and surely these new parents knew something we didn't. After she was born I purchased a sling because she never stopped screaming, she never slept and because Dr. Sears said to do so.

I wore my baby and I hated it. Yes I did. I hated it because I didn't know how to wear the sling correctly and I have a bad back and IT HURT. But I pressed on and wore the sling and sometimes, when Mr. C wasn't wearing it, the Bjorn. Because she did sleep better and cried less, so I guess I just backed up the woman in the Motrin ad. I am that Motrin Mom, with less flip. I wore my child, not because it made me look like an [really annoying finger quotes] Official Mom (*gag* Like, totally.) but because it made my colicky baby stop crying. I couldn't care less if I looked like I was wearing a baggy sack around my midsection and it made me stoop like a 95 year old woman with osteoporosis or if it made me look hip and trendy. She was not screaming like a banshee. Fashionable? Pssh. Necessity.

Now I wear C.C. I'm better at it, marginally, and my back still hurts. I do have a much prettier sling this time around so maybe that's where the fashion comes in? I don't know, just throwing and sticking, throwing and sticking.

And I use Motrin to help ease that pain. Yep, yep I do.

Bottom line, I'm not offended by this ad. I relate to parts of this ad. Admittedly, some lines were clunkers (again, the "Plus it totally makes me look like an Official Mom" line was a total stink bomb. Like, totally.) but I will not be defined by a print, radio or television advertisement. I will not be defined by the mother-as-nagging shrew character on popular television sitcoms either. But as I said before, I am very proud of the power of the internet and the strong women and men behind this movement. It's proof that when we come together we (the collective we) can effect change. Now, how about we tackle something more important, like health care, affordable childcare, or outlawing skinny jeans, and give Motrin a break?


Motherhood Uncensored said...

Great post, Chicky.

I think for me, it was more insulting than offensive. Trying to be the "insider cool mom" who is going against the mold by complaining about her sling-pained back? Eh. Just seemed like they were trying way too hard when really, they should have just gone with childbirth.

Truth be told, just last week I wrote a post about how my schwing was killing my back. Turns out I was not wearing it incorrectly.

But I took Tylenol...

ClumberKim said...

Thanks for saying it better than I ever could (except that I liked baby-wearing - but after 18 pounds I couldn't do a bjorn anymore and switched to the Ergo that is still working well for me - it puts the weight on your hips). I tried to be offended too but just couldn't muster it. If you get a crew together for outlawing skinny jeans, I'm there!

Anonymous said...


BOSSY said...

This post made Bossy realize just how long it's been since she's had babies.

BOSSY said...

Fer chrissake.

Susan Getgood said...

I wrote about this from the marketing angle this morning, basically calling the ad a fail because it missed the mark with its target audience and suggesting that perhaps talking to a few moms might have made for better copy.

Your post just proved my point. It and the comments too are much funnier than their ad.

Greens and Pinks said...

I thought the ad was funny. Kind of dumb, but funny. I guess I just didn't inherit the outraged mother gene. I wear my kids - both of them - in really cute slings - and I bitch about it all the time!

Pass the motrin.

mamatulip said...

It took me the better part of the weekend to figure out what all the fuss was about. I can see how it would bug some people, but I could care less. I have other things to get fired up about - like the price of Ah, Caramels. Goddamn those little cakes of joy are expensive!

Debbie said...

god bless it, T, you've outdone yourself with this post.

MU's right; the ad should be targeted at post-childbirth pain (much more effective, on both levels), and, indeed, babywearing *can* totally fucking hurt. even when you're doing it right. i had the ergo, loved it, and it hurt like *hell* sometimes. and, yes, i was wearing it right (had it demo'd when i bought it at the local Mother Nature store on 26th and Clinton in supa-hippy pdx).

ultimately, i'm w mama T. the price of chocolates is what's truly killing me, lately.

and by chocolates, i mean booze.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

lildb & Mama T - Yes! We should bitch less about insipid ads and more about price of chocolates, alcohol and the fact that skinny jeans make me look really bad.

Anonymous said...

I've apparently been living under a rock so have just seen the ad. I wouldn't say I think its offensive but I do think it misses the mark and alienates its audience.

And that voice over makes me want to smack her. But I have wanted to smack some mums IRL as well so its not just the ad.

Great, honest post Chicky!

Backpacking Dad said...

I'm more annoyed by the "don't you have anything more serious to worry about" refrain floating around out there than I was by the ad. I know you have an iteration of it here, and I don't really know how serious you are about it, but there are some people who are very serious about it and they lay that refrain out in a disgusted, superior way that just sets my teeth on edge. Because while the ad was stupidly executed, the refrain is passing deliberate judgment on each individual who contributes 30 seconds of their time to commenting on this and suggesting that these people are defective in their decision-making processes for not devoting that attention instead to world peace or some bullshit. Fact is, world peace, starvation, whatever, was not a talking point; it doesn't have an ad agency. It doesn't get the push that it ought to, sure, but no one is deficient for paying attention to the things that are placed in their eyeline.

Maybe I just don't care about world peace. :}

All Things BD said...

Thank you for being a voice of reason. I have no earthly idea where all the hysteria is coming from. It's not insulting, it's just a dumb ad, which they wisely pulled. They missed the mark, but dude, they have some seriously effective medicine for aches and pains.

With the ills of the world, there's GOT to be more productive use of our time and energy.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Backpacking Dad - Healthy debate, whether over world peace or the price of peas - is important. Am I discounting anyone's point of view on this matter? Absolutely not. I just think our energy would be better placed elsewhere. I mean, look at what can be accomplished in a weekend when a group such as ours gets pissed off at something! Now that we (again, the collective "we") are building strength and flexing our virtual muscles it's time to redirect to bigger and better causes.

And I know you care about world peace. And since another baby is on the way, probably whirled peas too.

Backpacking Dad said...

Yeah, as I said there is an iteration of the refrain in your post; but it isn't really the version that bothers me. Yours is the "check us out with our power; hooray us; now let's tackle other things" version, and the one that is getting my goat is the "just shut up already; there are more important issues in the world" version that began as an attack on #motrinmoms tweeters from outside the group and then was picked up later by insiders who deploy it against the group to show that they are above it all. This one bothers me because of its unheralded origin; it's unrecognized maliciousness that was directed at mommy-bloggers in general and then adopted unawares, by mommy-bloggers themselves. It's insidious, and bullshit :}

Anonymous said...

I agree that the ad was offensive, but so are all Mentadent commercials and nobody talks about how sexist they are.

Now Motrin pulled the ad. Let's move on.

Heather said...

I found the tone of the ad insulting, and the use of the word "supposedly" extremely condescending. But I didn't care enough to even respond on Twitter.

So I'm not sure what that makes me.

How about banding together to get Target to honor their posted prices?

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Heather - You're on! Let's take down Target!

Okay, maybe not take them down. Because then where would I spend all my time and money?

Danielle said...

Just heard about this for the first time here, linked over and watched.

It didn't bother me.

Not sure why.

I guess sometimes it's sort of funny to poke fun at ourselves- and mostly as bloggers we do that all the time. Poke fun at ourselves.

Is the anger from the perception that an ad company poked fun at moms? Was the person behind the script a mom?

I don't know. Initial gut reaction not having seen or heard about this until now is: It doesn't bother me, and I probably would have laughed had I seen it on TV...

Anonymous said...

All this craziness is giving me a headache. Where is my motrin??!

SciFi Dad said...

The thing is, I can see both sides of this situation. I get why some people were offended or insulted by the ad, but I can also understand why others are implying that there was an overreaction.

I think that, despite what others will argue, the mommyblogger "lobby" (for lack of a better word) is in its infancy. Sure, there are strong, clear voices that are directing traffic, but a lot of the "organization" is like herding cats. There are so many voices, so many ideas, so many perspectives that finding a cohesive message and getting it out there is almost impossible. As many moms as there were speaking out against Motrin, there were those who said, "I get what you're saying, but I don't think it's such a big deal".

I think that the collective mommy bloggers (or more appropriately, online moms) need to realize that they are already seen as a force to be reckoned with, that they do not need to lash out with such ferocity at every gaffe, and that they should instead, move toward a common set of standards and goals that would benefit them all.

Patois42 said...

Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

I think the ad itself was lame. Offending? Not to me. Cause I really don't give a crap what the ad said. I am comfortable in my own skin and don't care if someone doesn't like me breastfeeding in public with my DDD boobs. Too bad. Don't stare then.

Motrin is a God send. So I won't be 86ing them any time soon.

Don Mills Diva said...

* Stands and applauds *

I wrote a similar if blunter post yesterday. The whole thing irritated me a little. I think it would behoove us to wield the awesome power of the momosphere a little more judiciously if we want to be taken seriously when we rally the troops around something that's actually important!

petite gourmand said...

excellent post!
and so well put.
I agree completely.

Suburb Sierra said...

I think we should say "THANK YOU" Motrin. With the election over it's been hard to think of anything to tweet and blog about besides holiday shopping and thanksgiving day pie recipes.

I was happy for the distraction ;)

Anonymous said...

I was never a babywearer and I resented those who acted like my kids were going to be sociopaths if I didn't do as they were doing. So, I thought it was mildly amusing until the "look like an official Mom" line. That one trivialized all of us.

Kate said...

Being the ever-informed consumer, your post was the 1st that brought my attention to the ad, and seeing it for the 1st time, I agree and say "Meh." So what?

And kerfuffle is officially my new favorite word. Love it. Kerfuffle. Can't stop saying it.

Her Bad Mother said...

I totally agree. And I love the word kerfuffle.

karengreeners said...

good on ya. i missed the whole thing, so i don't know what anybody is really talking about, but hey, i like the cut of your jib.

Mom101 said...

You're so cool, chicky. said...

I've been commenting on this all over the place, and I think I've finally narrowed down what ticked me off most about the ad. Ready?

I've been trolling the Internets for about 9 years now - on mommy Internet boards, blogs, now Twitter. I've been in the front line on some of the big debates on parenting style and parenting choice. And yes, this sort of networking and philosophizing is a luxury and a privilege for most of us. But having walked through fire during the peak of many of the mommy wars to get to a place where I feel as if women are relatively more respectful of each other's choices - or understanding of the lack of choice and trying to withhold making character and human value judgments based upon either the action or omission of action - it irks me that Motrin is, in essence, playing on reigniting an argument.

The critics of this commercial have now been roundly criticized for not having something better to do with their time; why not pick a "real" issue to deal with?

Well, because the real issues, the big issues, are complicated by differences of culture, economics, and political philosophy - the big issues come with bigger roadblocks to finding a unified point of focus, a unified objective and goal. And we'll need all women - or most all of them - and all mothers to tackle these issues together. It's taken a long, hard climb to get to the point where we're judging each other less for parenting choices, and finally agreeing that "good mom" extends to more than just one type of mom even considering circumstances. We're finally getting beyond the general societal condescending attitude toward motherhood which holds that women who mother and produce something other than just children are worth more than women who just mother; an attitude which hold both stay-at-home and working-moms in low esteem.

I feel like we're finally on the other side of that hill. So, when Motrin snarked on a group of moms who have recently gone from feeling fringe and alienated by more mainstream parents - or mainstream everyone - to finally being at least somewhat respected for making a choice that is different, to finally feel as if they didn't have to be always on the offensive in justifying their choice, their "good parenting"...well, I was impressed and heartened by how quickly - when once alerted - a good majority of us clamped down hard and fast.

It wasn't just fringe baby-wearing parents being outraged. It was a whole lot of everyone. And for the first time, I think I really felt for real that the pick and petty mommy wars may be dying down and we may be able to regroup and set out sites a bit higher, finally, knowing that we're all of us done with civil war and onto the big issues with a full force - the issues that will have more meaning for all moms, not just the Internet moms or the mainstream moms.

The end.

Anonymous said...

I was a little annoyed by the tone of the ad, but mainly I had your reaction. Just, meh. It wasn't a great choice, but it wouldn't stop me from buying the product.

followthatdog said...

Oh thank you. I felt the same way. And Motrin jumped at the opportunity to apologize, pull the ad and try to make up for their transgression. Why keep on harping on their moment of poor advertising decision making?

I'm all on the bandwagon of outlawing skinny jeans. Who do I have to email.