When humour goes wrong

Humour can be an effective way to get a message across. Most of us use this technique unconsciously everyday.

But sometimes humour can be inappropriate or tone deaf to the sensitivities of society.

Some years ago, Motrin created the commercial above, targetting new moms and trying to blend (I assume) empathy with humour. They likely thought: "what mom can't relate to back pain?"

The commercial is, on the surface, fun. It's irreverent, has good animation and a female narrator.

Where it went horribly wrong was linking baby-carrying with fad and fashion. New moms were portrayed as using their babies as a fashion statement -- baby-sling fashion, if you will -- rather than as a way to bond or to help them get things done with a newborn in tow.

I don't imagine they were prepared for the backlash, but it was stupendous once it came to the attention of social media users.

Motrin issued a half-hearted apology, which wasn't enough and they were forced to issue a second one as well as pull the broadcast and print ads.

If you're interested in reading a case study, there are a number to be found online. We've included two here and here.

Knowing your audience, including what's important to them is critical for the success of every promotional campaign. You also have to understand any risks involved in using attention-grabbing techniques such as humour and be prepared to respond if something goes wrong.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about the Motrin ad and response. What do you think about the ad? Do you think the bloggers went too far? Do you think Motrin handled the response well?



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