The Checkout

Babywearing Ad Turns into a Huge Pain for Makers of Motrin

Annys Shin

The blogosphere hath no fury like babywearers scorned.

Over the weekend, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the makers of the pain reliever Motrin, took a virtual beating over an online and print ad that it originally posted on Sept. 30 that featured a supposed first-time mom talking about babywearing as if it was a painful fad.

What set people off, I think, was really the tone, which made baby slings and Moby wraps sound like skinny jeans and high heels--only worse.

A brief list of ironies:

1. McNeil was forced to pull the ad during International Babywearing Week.
2. Plenty of parents buy baby carriers in order to SAVE their backs.
3. The ad was part of a campaign titled "We Feel You Pain."
4. It offended the very segment of hippish moms and dads it was targeted at.

I say that based on where the ad ran--at the Motrin Web site and in a select number of magazines including Cookie, Lucky and Nylon. (Save the discussion about whether Cookie and Lucky really count as hip or edgy for another time, please!)

Anyway, when asked whether McNeil used focus groups when developing said ad, spokesman Marc Boston declined to discuss the creative process that went into making it.

While the head of marketing, Kathy Widmer, who was tasked with issuing the official apology is a mom herself, I have to say the ad comes off as if it was made in a dark cave by people who have never had children, let alone one with colic, and don't know anyone who has, or at least not one who has had one in the past 40-some years. (Besides being around for centuries, the first attempt at a commercially produced ergonomic cloth infant carrier in the U.S. was in the 1960s.)

Quite a few guys protested the ad too. And, at least around Washington, it's not uncommon at all to see guys wearing their infants. (My old boss once enthusiastically ripped his shirt off in front of me and all my co-workers in order to demonstrate skin-to-skin contact with his then-infant son, followed by an equally robust demo of swaddling.)
No word on whether the ad ran in Maxim or Stuff.

The whole mess is already being dissected by advertising and PR experts.

What do you make of the ad? Throw your two cents in below.

By Annys Shin |  November 17, 2008; 6:20 PM ET Annys Shin
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