Motrin, found itself in the middle of a major controversy on Twitter, FriendFeed, and other social networks. Motrin's latest ad discusses the advantages of using the painkiller for mothers who 'wear' their babies close to their body with a sling or other baby carriers and who might suffer from back pain because of it. A lot of mothers (and fathers) were clearly not amused by these ads and Motrin has now decided to remove them and has issued an apology.One would think that few ads could be less controversial than ads for painkillers, but over the weekend, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the maker of
The ad, like a lot of ads, is offensive because it is boring and talks down to its target audience (and also because it stole its use of typography from a popular YouTube video (note: language in the video might be offensive to some)). Motrin clearly didn't understand its market, but it is hard not to consider the 'outrage' over this video to be a bit of an overreaction as well.
This affair is also a good example of how much power a vocal minority can have thanks to social media. The controversy has already gone beyond Twitter, and mainstream news outlets will surely pick this story up within the next day or two.
We Feel Your Pain
Motrin, as Seth Godin points out, had a chance here to reconnect with its customers by using social media to reach out to them with its apology, but the company issued a standard press release-style apology on its site instead. That might seem old-fashioned, but for most companies, that's the only way they know how to operate.
Learning from Comcast
More and more users expect companies to reach out to them directly through social media, so just having a social media presence is not enough anymore. When controversies like this one happen (whether deserved or not), smart companies will reach out to consumers directly to stop these fires right where they started. A pioneer of this is obviously Comcast, whose 'Director of Digital Care' Frank Eliason reaches out to any and all Twitter users who tweet about issues with the company's service.