In My Hood: Fires, Motrin, Moms

As the smoke clears in my neighborhood and the Southern California wildfires subside, smoke is clearing from my online neighborhood as well.

Over the weekend mombloggers and twittermoms became upset over a Motrin commercial, voiced their displeasure, and by Sunday the company had issued an apology and pulled the ad.

Yet the controversy continues.

Let’s not go down the path of *if* my fellow moms had something to be upset about. Different things are important to different people, and whether or not babywearing is your thing is irrelevant.

What is relevant to all of us is how the game has changed. I realize you may be shocked by this, but there was a time it was necessary to educate companies and other bloggers on just how influential the moms online are…AND THAT TIME HAS PASSED.

They KNOW.

They are buying ads, they are engaging women online. They are sponsoring trips, sending you even MORE free stuff. They are paying for YOU to consult for them. They are slowly but surely working the new world order into their business plans.

You have their attention.

You have the power.

It’s been proven now in case studies and marketing reports. It’s been proven with the President-elect answering your questions. It’s been proven with your growing checks and empowerment.

It’s time to change how you conduct business.

It’s no longer us screaming to be recognized. I no longer need to lift my shirt to demand breastfeeding gets respect. I no longer need to stomp my feet and be as snarky as possible when a company obviously has no clue how to engage mommybloggers.

You have their ear.

You are now fully-recognized, influential businesswomen.

Time to act like it.

Companies will continue to have no choice but to engage mommybloggers. They are not going anywhere. We are here and they have to deal with us.

However I would prefer we maximize our relationships and they deal with us as BUSINESSWOMEN, not as a protesting, activist group of divas.

Yes, you are a businesswoman. You are a professional. Please don’t make me go over this again.

The problem with what happened this weekend is the perception. Mommybloggers got mad, mommybloggers acted. Mommybloggers over-reacted. Mommybloggers looked like amateurs.

Right or wrong, the rest of the web is now rolling its eyes, again at our community. Words like ‘mob’ and ‘rookies’ and ‘divas’ are flying around and we’re not being taken seriously.

I’ll be honest, they are right. What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally lynch-mob.

I expect better from professionals. It’s time we start holding each other to higher standards.

Please don’t ever make me compare you to Sarah Palin again, it hurts.


  1. Exactly!

    Why aren’t people letting it go? They already won.

  2. And if it doesn’t clean up, then Motrin may just say “Fuck it all” and find a demographic that doesn’t act like rookies.

  3. LotusBlossom says:

    Wow! With all the stress you’ve been under this weekend and you still turn out this over-the-top, excellent article? You rock! Great work.

    Hope that everything is quiet in your neighborhood, take care.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more Erin. I found the whole “Motrin Lynch Mob” mentality fairly disgusting. It just makes us all look childish.

    Thanks for writing this.

  5. Completely agree with you.

  6. Kelly Mitchell says:

    Wow… well said.

  7. No, Motrin will not give up the mom market. That’s like 95% of their business right there.

    But I agree, it’s ridiculous, the furor over this. And I heard a totally unsubstantiated rumor that the woman (a mother) who wrote the copy is now on “maternity leave,” mysteriously. If this is true, and it’s a forced leave, then that totally sucks.

  8. The tone of that ad was off, they pulled it, the VP in charge apologized, it should be end of story. I watched the whole thing in awe and concern. In awe over the fact that such a fuss could be made over something like this. In concern over the beat-up-the-brand pile-on, mob-like behavior that seemed to be taking over everyone.

    No wonder brand managers and the agencies that support them are wary of engaging the blogosphere. I would be too.

  9. Thank you! You said exactly what I was thinking.

  10. Could not disagree with you more. We are not businesses, we a people and moreover we are customers. We should be mature and professional but quite frankly don’t have to be. This was not organized, or orchestrated…it was raw reaction to something that pissed people off. This was not an association or an entity…it was grassroots emotion.

    Companies that want to sell us things have to be organized and professional; responses to what they do that set people off are never going to be. And in this age of the internet, they should know that.

    Because so many women responded, it was deemed an “over-reaction” but the over-reaction was not planned…it was simply hundreds of women writing 140 characters or less in a short period of time. That is some powerful stuff.

  11. I think you make an excellent point…one I was considering but did not know how to express. I thought the ad was terrible and insulting, and kudos to mamas (like Katja) who expressed that and focused the energy, and voting with your money is a person’s right, but I was also surprised at how absolutely enraged some people were by an advertisement that was snarky about babywearing.

    But to Aaron Brazell–I highly doubt Motrin will go elsewhere…they do need moms. And it isn’t like they were giving moms anything in this case. We not only have the voice, here, we have the dollars of household spending. And we can always just buy from another company–preferably a non-affiliated generic to save money.

  12. Queen of Spain says:

    Thanks. If Elise sees what I saw- I suggest EVERYONE take notice. Seriously.

  13. ColetteNicole says:


  14. Totally and completely agree with you.

  15. I have to say. I agree with you 100%.

  16. My tweet this morning:
    “My very cranky twitter for the day: dear twitter, please shut up about motrin now. The ad was pulled, the apologies were made. Next!!”
    was met with the feedback that a lot of people who didn’t see it over the weekend were stirring it up again today.

    That makes sense. Not that it helps much, but it makes sense.

    Personally? I think it was time to move on Sunday when the company screamed “mea culpa!” and pulled the site and sent the apology letters. But unfortunately – I don’t get to dictate. (or seriously… I’d be screaming off with their heads way too much!)

    I was also told that the bloggers who were now looking at it from the Social Media perspective were all going to blog about it now.

    This post? Case in point. You , and everyone else who feels like it, are now adding to the noise. That’s the problem. Everyone wants to weigh in.

    Can we talk about something else now? Football maybe? The Dow? How about Mark Cuban… 😉

  17. Well done. Exactly. Nailed it.

  18. Amen. This is the ONLY intelligent post, comment, opinion that I have read about this whole nonsensical debacle. Thank you.

  19. Queen of Spain says:

    wellesley I take issue with the idea that these women are not business. they are taking free stuff, consulting, taking ad dollars. making a name for themselves and their brands. sounds like a business to me

  20. i never found the ad offensive. i found it inclusive, if anything. hi! babywearing makes your back hurt! have some pain medicine.


    so, yeah. kinda gobsmacked by the whole outraged element. to each her own entitled dollop of outrage, but to me? meh. i feel outrage about the stick-up by the Bush admin to the tune of 700 billion of our dollars. i feel outrage over the ongoing Iraq mess. i feel outrage over the loss of peoples’ homes in socal. i feel outrage over people who *still* haven’t been taken care of in the katrina aftermath. i feel outrage over the proposition H8 in cali, that the mormons decided to give LGBTs the finger.

    i do not feel outrage over motrin telling babywearing moms that pain medication makes babywearing an easier load to bear.

    (if only motrin could make the Bush administration an easeir load to bear, i’d buy stock in their fucking company.

    sorry for the swear.)

    thx for the brilliant insight, once again, babe.

  21. Agreed. Johnson & Johnson does respond to complaints when they screw up. Now that we’re in the much faster, as in almost instantaneous, networking world, we get action fast. Gone are the days of waiting months to get an offensive ad pulled. I think this should be what we celebrate, not keep harping on their (J&J) faux pas.

    Time for all of us to grow up because if we don’t, this instantaneous network will turn around and bite us in the proverbial ass.

  22. Now I want to buy some Motrin out of sympathy. That, and I have a headache from reading the spillover this weekend.

  23. I think that for the immediacy social media offer us, it also prolongs the hoopla. I was apparently under an Adirondack cloud, nursing and babywearing with the TV and Twitter off.

    I have to echo lildb. I mean I love babywearing and breastfeeding, but both can hurt. If we really wanted to talk about the ad we could say it was overkill, the graphics ultimately becoming to unwieldy and the message getting distorted. I give them credit for trying, it means they aren’t overlooking us.

    Great post and the Palin threat is enough to keep me in line.

  24. Queen, most of the responses came from individuals? what organization are they from? Yes, many of them have home businesses and got twitter followers from the onslaught but I doubt it was thought out that way when they initially posted their short comment.

    And as far as the company responding…they responded to one person. Pretty darned stupid given what happened to begin with. Why not stop the whole tirade by pulling the ad and putting a statement up on the site instead? Most people saw the twittering first and didn’t realize that they had responded at all. I realize their site was crashed but J&J is a big company and could have put up one non-interactive page that would not have crashed at all even with the volume of visitors.

  25. I have to agree with Wesley.

    (Don’t hurt me!)

    I think that consumers are entitled to voice concerns about the stuff that bums them out. Not every blogger wants to make money and not every twitterer considers herself in the social media business.
    But I do think a lot of the “Off with their head!” stuff was totally out of line.

    As I said on my own post today, now it’s time to chill out, and let the brand figure out next steps. This wasn’t malicious and it wasn’t mean-spirited. It was mostly just clueless. In the end, it was really just a bad execution of a smart premise that, sadly, could have been fixed easily with a tone transplant.

  26. Forbes online has an article on this issue today. It includes links to the ad on and to the Twitter convesation/comments people made over the weekend. More importantly, the Mommybloggers that won’t let it go need to go there and read the comments. Read what people are thinking and saying about Mommybloggers. I think it’s important if Mommybloggers want to continue to be listened to and have credibility.

    Here’s where to find it…

  27. Queen of Spain says:

    It’s the off-with-their head stuff I’m taking issue with Liz. It makes us look bad as a group, as a community. And as much as these women may not be beholden to any community, it reflects on all of us. The talk ‘outside’ of the momosphere today is what lunatics we are due to continued push. Chill out is EXACTLY what is needed, so actually we agree.

    And W. they did put the apology up on the site.

  28. lildb — The reason the ad was “off” is that babywearing does not cause pain (it alleviates it) and most babywearers do it because they believe in it and/or find it convenient, not because it is “fashionable.”

    But I agree about the outrage level versus the offense level.

    In support of wellesley, I think she meant that #motrinmoms is not a business or even a real organized effort. And it is not like moms were picketing the offices. They were just tweeting and blogging…so maybe if anything it shows how efficiently tweets can communicate outrage?

    And not every twittermom or mommy blogger is a business or a brand.

    But to the other angle, again, I do think that what we do as a community can reflect on all of us. That doesn’t mean I’m telling everyone to cut it out (who would listen to me, anyway) but just that it is something to consider when voicing our concerns. We can be concerned and we can be angry and we can communicate that in a reasoned, effective, and respectful way. As you mentioned, we used to have to shout to be heard and now there are people listening even when we whisper. It is about proportionality.

    Though I’m not sure that we’ll never have to shout (or wave our boobs around…and thank you for that, you have more guts than I do) again…there are companies who still expect to tap our ideas and energy for free and then insult us into the bargain…but hopefully there is progress here.

    Ultimately, the more seriously we take ourselves (as businesses, not as people…don’t take yourself too seriously in that way), the more other businesspeople will respect us.

  29. While what say may apply to some of your readers, I don’t think it’s true of all the folks who weighed in on Twitter or elsewhere. Speaking as one of those amateurs, I’m neither a mommyblogger, a professional blogger, or someone interested in maintaining relationships with companies. I saw a tweet, viewed the ad I thought was insulting and stupid, expressed my opinion directly(and politely) to the company and in a tweet, and that was that. I also viewed with interest how some folks in the PR and blogging world needed to tell me with great vehemence that I had no sense of humor, needed a life, and should STFU. I find that reaction (which I noticed was not expressed exclusively by men, but was definitely pumped up by a few specific men) to be part of the same sexism that made the ad offensive to me in the first place; it sneers at women’s speech: “Just because YOU think it’s insulting doesn’t mean it is! You’re OVERREACTING!” Now, I do know that is not your point in this post, and that you’re speaking to a smaller community, but I believe there is still a need for some of us who see ourselves as activists rather than professionals to make rude noises when we see rude ads.
    The kind of response I find most irritating is the complaint that if this bothers us we can’t possibly also be concerned with matters of greater import (“what about all the starving children in China, you frivolous tweeter, you!”). That’s just hostile concern-trolling.

  30. Queen of Spain says:

    I am viewing this from the mothers who took the lead on this perspective. They are very, most assuredly, business women engaging in twitter for marketing their businesses. All of them, no. Those heading this…oh yes.

  31. I think it’s hard sometimes for groups that feel they’ve been ignored for too long to not only realize things have shifted, but also to act accordingly.

    Classic example was of a local politician who’d spent his entire career as a flame-thrower, always running but never winning. Then one year he accidentally became elected. Unfortunately for him, he remained a flame-thrower and didn’t accomplish nearly as much as he could have because his insistence at remaining strident got in the way.

    To put it another way, would we continue to harangue our kids after they’ve confessed their sins and served their time-outs? No.

    Yet that’s exactly what the continuing Motrin bash is. Plus there’s some hits ho’ing going on, too. I’ve seen the same videos and blogs from yesterday’s initial angry reaction tweeted multiple times today, stirring the pot for the sake of traffic. That’s irresponsible.

  32. I can’t believe how fast something can erupt and spread – this was an amazing and somewhat frightening example of the power of social networks.

    I hope if nothing else that some moms realize how important it is to represent things properly. A few when way too far. Hype and exaggeration is killer on your reputation.

  33. Candace, I should’ve included in my comment that I did, in fact, wear my son as an baby, all the way through to when he was a walking kidlet. (The Ergo is a kick-ass sling, imo. Wish my neighbor would’ve returned it; now, if I have a second child, I’ll have to re-invest.)

    I just thought the ad pointed to a basic issue. As Liz (Mom101) said, above, it was mostly an issue of tone (of voice), and the visual-text thingy they did was kind of annoying. But I felt that they at least got one thing right, which was that they managed to speak to a group of the population not generally targeted prior to very recent times: babywearers. So, +1 for speaking to us in the first place, and -1 for the tone of the woman’s voice-over (it *was* kind of annoying). Which is why I felt neutral about the ad after viewing it.

    And when I think of the outrage I feel regarding the things I listed in my first comment (bailout, Katrina, Mormons screwing LGBT, Iraq war, the steadily worsening economy), and I compare them to an ad, I don’t see the fuss.

    As I pointed out in my tweets on the subject, while people are entitled to their modicum of outrage, I’m entitled to feel zero such outrage re: the whole thing.

  34. The thing is, it wasn’t the whole momosphere getting their figurative tits in a knot. I wrote a post suggesting that the outrage was mayb out of hand, as did others, and from the comments to my post it seems that many parent bloggers kept a level head. And most of those who were bothered expressed their frustrations entirely reasonably (to wit, Liz’s fine post pointing ou exactly what was wrong from an advertising point of view).

    We’re not a hive mind. Really, we’re not. We’d do well – especially in the interest of putting best business feet forward, as you’re rightly suggesting – to remind ourselves, and the world outside or community, of that whenever w can.

  35. I thought the phenomenon was funny, and I had a lot of fun at Motrin’s expense yesterday. I don’t know that it’s fair to call out, as a group, the people who were writing about the ad for over-reacting or for acting like a mob. It sounds like a criticism of a choice (to act like a mob) where there is no agent making a choice. Nobody who tweeted or wrote (I’m guessing) thought “I am going to act on behalf of a group”; it was all just individual sentiment. Some of it was extreme, but I’d say the majority of it was just disappointment.

    When you call a group out your criticism must be able to be internalized by the individual. But that’s a category error for situations involving something that looks like a mob: the mob is criticized but the individuals are not directly choosing to be a mob. They are PERCEIVED as a mob. But who thinks their lone tweet/blog post expressing a sentiment is going to add to the rolling ball of craziness, or to the perception that the group, in general and amorphous, will be perceived a certain way? The individual is going to have a hard time saying to himself “I really acted like a mob today and came off really unprofessionally.” The individual acts weren’t, in large part un-professional. They were exactly as professional as the profession demands: but the profession is personal blogging. There are no CEOs of personal bloggers to make decisions for the group in its entirety and present the best/most manipulative face to the world.

    It’s like saying the Service Industry acted unprofessionally. Or the Tech Industry. The industries as a whole can do no such thing.

    So, I don’t think there was a group over-reaction. I think there were thousands of individual reactions, some of them extreme and, as individual reactions were over the top. Some of them were un-critical, and the poorer for it. Some of them were sensible. Some of them were hilarious. But unless someone is going to install a CEO and Board of Directors for personal blogging I don’t think it’s on point to call out the group. Because everyone who wrote a personal sentiment in more or less than 140 characters will feel unfairly castigated for expressing a very short opinion, and the perceived mob, the unity, will feel nothing at all.

  36. What Mom101 said.

    The ad was a fail. It could have been good, but instead of being funny, it came across as condescending. The company probably could have avoided this had it dug in a bit deeper, and yes, reached out to some of the babywearing mom bloggers who I do believe are representative. It didn’t do so but I’ll be willing to bet they will now.

    Wanna be one of them? Give them a chance to get it right, instead of beating the dead horse.

  37. lildb–gotcha, I understand know that you were speaking in the voice of the PR person (not as yourself) when saying Motrin = pain relief from babywearing.

    And yes, I like when babywearers (breastfeeders, whatever other group I belong to) is recognized…on 5M4M, I commented that perhaps “we” can make lemonade by using this to promote babywearing (done properly so it is without pain, of course)!

    And I agree about the proportionality of the outrage. Though everyone is of course entitled…and I’m know many of these mamas spend time speaking out on other issues, as well.

    I guess I’m fence sitting a bit (*ouch*), but I both see the point that the ad was derisive and trivializing and also the point that the response was, perhaps, disproportional. I see the point that every individual is entitled to his or her own reaction and really tweeting is not a huge expenditure of time and energy over the matter, but that at the same time some in the online mom community are concerned about how we present ourselves.

    We are individuals, but, like it or not, there are some that will perceive us as a whole. Our actions, especially the de facto leaders in the community, will reflect on all of us. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean any one of us MUST do things one way or another…but I appreciate the suggestions and points in Erin’s post.

  38. I didn’t hear about any of this until late (8-9pm) on Sunday evening. Why? I was taking time to be with my family as I usually do on the weekends and including the extra special celebration of my oldest son’s birthday. While I have ranted about customer service and/or the lack thereof before, it has never been on a weekend. My focus on the weekend is almost 100% my family. (Friends come into play and I do occasionally have to do some work on Saturday mornings or if the 1st falls on a Sunday I 100% have to run stats for some sites I manage. Once the kids go to bed Sunday evening though, the computer is back on.)

    ANYWAY, I agree. Though I’m still not all that surprised. As a mother who was uninvited to J&J’s hoopla, I’m not really counting on this company to get it just yet. While others were offered apologies, I only got an apology after another twitter-er with a more public face told them that I was still waiting on one. Apparently it is okay to continue to overlook mothers if they are only small-time bloggers. It only matters if you hurt and or perturb big-time bloggers.

  39. I think Anna hit the nail on the head when she suggests that if Dooce had written a post which said the same thing, thongs of mommy bloggers would have been falling down laughing and agreeing.

    So what is the lesson to companies like J&J? Don’t try to sit a the cool kid table without getting invited over first – cause the Mom’s – they get ugly when you cross them.

  40. I think one of the joys of blogging is freedom. We get to completely choose how we will act, whether we are blogging as a consumer or as a business person. As our own mothers taught us, how you act will be what people see of you and will be one of the things they will use to decide if they want to interact with you. It’s a self-regulating concept. When you are more trouble than you’re worth for the value you bring, you will be rejected/ignored. That’s how we all act, generally speaking.

    I also think there is room in the mommy demographic for different reactions. Moms are not a monolithic group. Because of that, I don’t believe that all Moms should be held to a business behavior standard. A courtesy standard, perhaps, but not a business one. Our children are watching after all.

    It’s no one particular person’s responsibility to make sure they don’t make Moms look bad when they express themselves. The ultimate consequence may play out on the entire group, but that is for each of us to decide. For too long groups have been condemned for the acts of sub-groups within them. It’s the core of discrimination and allowing personal distinction within a group is one of the best ways to combat that age-old foe.

    I do think that becoming aware of the power of your words and modulating them so you are heard instead of not is great advice. It’s also important that companies who are held to a business behavior standard look past the emotions inflamed and hear/distill down the real message – “No one wants to feel they are being disrespected, so cut it out.” I am hoping the folks at Motrin hear that message most.

    Together, we are stronger
    Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman
    follow me on twitter:

    p.s. I am really glad you are safe from the fires. 🙂

  41. Woah – when did conformity become the new activism? To say that we cannot use our powerful voice because the corporations now get it and understand us is probably one of the saddest statements I’ve read in a long time. I saw no mob action here, I just saw a group of DIVERSE and opinionated people taking a stance against stupidity in advertising. If someone in that group wants to sound off, so be it. To muzzle strong voices and say “act like a professional” is a very sad statement and very Orwellian.

  42. I personally was not offended by the ad. However, I do think that the moms who were had every right to be. I guess my question to you is how should have they responded?

  43. During the ’08 BlogHer panel on The Commercialization of the Momosphere, Policy, Ethics and Outreach, I made the statement “There is no universal mom and there is no universal mom blogger” and our panel went into detail about how companies can engage successfully by letting go of the premise that there is merely one type of parent blogger. It’s obvious to anyone who’s reading blogs, we’re a diverse community. Any collective/individual response to the ad merely underscores that reality.
    My own opinion is the ad failed, the apology has been issued, we can all learn from the experience and move forward in, what Aviva always loves to say, “A renewed spirit of understanding.”

  44. Queen of Spain says:

    Motherbumper I’m not suggesting anyone be muzzled. Nor did I suggest that, so please do not put words in my mouth.

    I’m simply reminding everyone that with loud voices come responsibility. Take the responsibility or leave it, it’s each blogger’s choice.

  45. Queen of Spain says:

    Questions I have include but are not limited too:

    How do you, in one breath, say things like ‘we are powerful moms who control .83cents on every dollar you MUST take us seriously’ and then in the same breath talk about how your individual reaction is not a group reaction and that it in no way means anything businesslike?


    Also- and as I stated…RIGHT OR WRONG, it WAS perceived as a mob, a group a community. Regardless of the individuals involved. So how do those of us conducting business separate ourselves from those who don’t? (short answer, we can’t)

    So asking for a wee bit of responsibility isn’t out of the question or …what was it…Orwellian.

    We’re asking you not get out of hand, which as some of you seem to think, is debatable in this case. I saw some rather nasty stuff out there this weekend, maybe you didn’t.

  46. Thank you.

  47. Sure, Motrin needs moms. They just don’t need the moms who are being stupidly petty once the company backed off and apologized. Those moms can go buy their generic brands (which if you know the pharmaceutical industry, probably is just white-label Motrin anyway).

    How well do you think it would be perceived if I, as a tech blogger, kicked HP’s ass like I did last year, they came around and fixed their problem, and I still went off on them.

    You, dear Moms, are not entitled.

  48. I saw nasty stuff over the weekend too. Stuff like “Get over yourselves ladies!! Go tend to your children and get off the computer…Are you seriously bitching about this? Really?!” and “#motrinmoms gained the rightful scorn of all people who disdain self-centered idiocy.”

    The people who were mad were really mad. They tweeted about it. Thousands of them. I don’t think any single person said BRING MOTRIN TO THEIR KNEES MOUAHAHAHAHA. But maybe I wasn’t watching.

  49. I do believe Mommy bloggers have a voice. It’s apparent their presence on Twitter has influence. A major company pulled an ad because of them. Other Moms who aren’t as popular on Twitter hold these women in high regard and will follow their lead.

    I’m not a Mom and the ad didn’t matter to me. It obviously was offensive to some and Motrin respected their opinion enough to pull their ad and apologize. But it doesn’t end there. Bloggers are jumping to voice their opinions, which is why it isn’t going way.

    You stated this in a comment …

    Queen of Spain 11.17.08 at 12:44 pm

    I am viewing this from the mothers who took the lead on this perspective. They are very, most assuredly, business women engaging in twitter for marketing their businesses. All of them, no. Those heading this…oh yes.

    And you stated “I expect better from professionals. It’s time we start holding each other to higher standards. Please don’t ever make me compare you to Sarah Palin again, it hurts.”

    It sounds like you are expecting all Mommy bloggers to be held to your higher standard. Isn’t that just as condescending to these Moms as Motrin was?


  1. […] and some are achingly stupid: Like the person who said of negative reaction to the video, “What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally […]

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