Tag Archives: Motrin

Maybe we don't need to worry so much about online attacks

Along with many others in the crisis and reputation management business commented on the Motrin ad featuring a mother carrying a baby. Johnson & Johnson quickly pulled the ad and apologized. I used this as an example at the recent Ragan/PRSA conference relating to the hair trigger outrage that seems to characterize so much of the conversation on the internet–something I’ve been calling “toxic talk.”

This article in Advertising Age suggests that companies involved in this kind of viral outrage need not be overly concerned. For one thing, the internet and the conversation doesn’t impact everyone–90% of consumer hadn’t seen the ad (probably more did because of the controversy–which could be a good thing considering that most people really liked it). It’s also interesting that the research showed that while some didn’t like the ad, a small percentage saw the ad as negatively impacting their impression of the company.

What does this mean Social media and “toxic talk” doesn’t matter. Hardly. But it does caution PR folks to be careful about over reacting. It also shows that the controversy online can be beneficial in pure awareness level (say anything you want but make sure you spell my name right school of PR), and that just because a few take umbrage does not mean that the entire world is offended. Did J&J do the right thing to pull the ad? Probably, but those under attack should take comfort from knowing that most people out there, even on the internet are pretty reasonable. What it does show more than anything is that you better be paying attention to what they are saying–both the outraged ones and the rest of us.

"Paying close attention to the conversations online:" J&J and Motrin Moms

It’s 9:45 Pacific Time and in another couple of hours I’ll be doing a PRSA teleseminar on Social Media and Crisis Communication. And then this pops up–the Motrin Mom controversy around a Johnson & Johnson ad. According to the story in PR Week, an online ad created a storm of controversy because it suggests that mom’s carrying babies are in pain–relieved by Motrin of course.

Such a storm online that it was surpassed in traffic only by Christmas and Obama.

Oh my goodness. Admittedly, I’m not a mom, but I’m having a dickens of a time trying to discover what all the outrage is all about. And that is the real point here. Are we actually so hypersensitive that anything that strikes us as a little wrong or insensitive creates a backlash of anger, accusations and acrimony? What has happened to us? I am coming to the conclusion that this is one of the serious downsides of the social media phenomenon–a topic I hope to delve into a lot more in the future. Either we have become remarkably intolerant, just a PO’d generation, or else the desire of bloggers and commentators online is so great to create audiences that the slightest provocation is used to create an avalanche of outrage.

The media–intent as they have been on creating outrage to attract audiences–has never been this successful at creating such a storm in such a short period of time for so little reason.

But J&J is absolutely right in their response. Apologize. Show empathy. Admit what they did wrong. Correct it, try to make it right and validate the legitimacy of the response. They are right to do all that. It should be up to the rest of us to raise the question of what the heck is going on here–even while we advise our clients to do just what J&J is doing.

The most telling line of this story should be on the bulletin board of every PR person today: “One bright spot is that we have learned through this process – in particular, the importance of paying close attention to the conversations that are taking place online.”