LilaTovCocktail: Ingredients: one part NE Ohio; two parts politics; two parts media, and one part each: culture, family & the Jewish community. Directions: Shake well.

The #motrinmom meme revisited: pity the poor advertising agencies


Over on Write Like She Talks, Jill Zimon questions the argument of "Social Media And The Motrin Controversy: Or, Will Social Media Kill Advertising Creativity?" Author Catharine P. Taylor worries that reactions like that of "outraged 'Motrin Moms'" will crush creative advertising (such as it is):

Can we expect Johnson & Johnson to be skittish the next time a well-meaning creative director presents something somewhat edgy to the client? Yes. Can we expect said idea, even if it makes it out of the conference room, to be focus-grouped to death before it is unleashed to the vocal masses?
[Clients may make] the decision to run increasingly conservative advertising, until fully addressable, trackable TV advertising gives marketers enough insight into their ROI to realize those kinds of ads are ineffective. Until that time, the conclusion I draw is that much advertising will go plain vanilla, and that's too bad for all of us.

Like Zimon, I don't have much sympathy with the sad fate of creatively stymied ad agencies. "Why," Zimon asks, "is advertising that goes 'plain vanilla…too bad for all of us'?"

And I'm stunned by Taylor's naive assertion that the #motrinmoms were upset not by "the message of the ad so much as its cataclysm of tone and language."

Anyone who studies social media as Taylor does should
understand that that form IS content every bit as much as the medium is the message. The ad's intended message may be "take Motrin for back pain," but its tone and language clear sent other unintended messages as well.

The truth is that the creators of this ad made a tactical error. They bet on the assumption that most mainstream moms consider babywearing fringe behavior.

That may once have been true. But babywearing moms are no longer a fringe group, at least not among the women who are active Internet users.

Better educated and wealthier women are both more likely to breastfeed their babies for longer, and more likely to use the internet as a way to find out information and find a community. If they're stay at home moms, they also have more time & greater opportunity to share reactions online to content they find offensive. Twitter made that communication happen even faster than email and blogging has.

(There's abbreviation on discussion boards and in chatrooms and IM for "nursing at keyboard" [NAK]. Wearing your baby while you nurse them allows you to have your hands free for typing -- although your attention is not always free, hence "NAK," used to explain why you're not paying full attention to an online dialogue.)

Babywearing, internet savvy women naturally resented being depicted as the practitioners of a mothering habit which "common-sense" women like the ad's narrator secretly resents or find to be of dubious value.

Advertising that ridicules is risky. In this case, J&J underestimated the size, power and commitment of the group they chose to ridicule.

And while the ad may have been visually fresh and well-executed, its approach was definitely NOT "edgy" or daring.

In fact, its underlying tactic -- encouraging self-doubt in women -- was around long before the first Clairol commercial appeared in a fashion magazine.

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