Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Take Two and You'll be Okay

How did Motrin get its recent headache?

This week's Warhol ad is one by Motrin, targeting mom's who carry their babies in a sling/wrap/pouch etc. thinking that these moms might need relief from pain. Specifically, the pain of carrying a baby this way. So, far so good because there might be a real need - I don't know. However, the manner and tone of the ad's execution suggests that the reasons for doing so have to do with fashion and trends and that it is a good idea 'in theory'. Hmm., not so good.

While the ads have been around for a month, the backlash reached critical mass this past weekend, particularly on Twitter . The result was a retraction of the ad as well as an apology from the maker - McNeil Consumer Products.

Three thoughts:
  1. Why the backlash? My sense is that the ad makes a 'loser' out of the very target market they wanted to reach. This violates rule #1: Never treat the intended audience with disdain. I'll give the makers of the ad the benefit of the doubt and think their intent was to use a bit of humor, but that is a very high-risk strategy.
  2. The role of social media, already being debated with a question about a groundswell of the many versus the Twitterverse of a few, is no longer an 'if' question. The discussion should use the Big Seed vs. Tipping Point ideas as a starting point on understanding influence better.
  3. The business school cases are probably already in draft mode. McNeil was considered a model of responsiveness when Tylenol was tampered with in '82 resulting in 30+ million bottles removed from the shelf. The causes are by no means equal, but the way the two issues were handled 25 years apart ought to make for some interesting discussion over the role and evolution of communication.

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