November 16, 2008

May Cause Mild Discomfort

And you still decided to read this!? Hey, you're my kind of people.

Alright, alright. I just have to say something. I've been thinking about this now long enough to convince myself that I'm not just shooting this off the hip, but when you're passionate about something, isn't that what blogging is for? If not, then I give up.

I got sucked into the whole Moms Against Motrin thing. (That's what I'm nicknaming it for now and I don't mean that to sound derogatory, just don't know what else to call it right now so read hear me out first.) No, I'm not going to link to the drug's site because I'm hoping that soon the subject of this case won't even be available anyhow. Besides, plenty of great blogs are linking to it and providing some nice documentation without doing the bidding of selling the product.

Let me just say up front, I think it's all a worthy cause but I fear things can get out of hand quickly. I believe that even bad publicity is still publicity. I don't want to contribute to the problem but be a part of the solution. Some in the conversation stream have been quick to suggest a complete boycott. I do not believe that boycotting the company is the solution. Maybe the company does good things in other areas in this was an oversight on their part that can be rectified. Here is an article that offers some insight on boycotting.

I do not use the product advertised. It is overpriced in my opinion and the generic version works just the same for me.

Proposed Solution
I would like to see the ad removed and hope that theirs as wells as other marketing teams learn a lesson from this. I am attracted to the fact that a group effort such as people using social media tools like twitter and blogs to get that task accomplished seems viable. I would like to think that I, as a consumer and advocate, have a voice and would like to invoke my right to use it.

I would like to advocate for methods of child rearing, used but not limited to Attachment Parenting like "baby wearing" and I can only hope that this negative event will shed some light on the subject for new parents considering it. My husband and I used a baby carrier and we feel it had very positive and effective results. I have my wise, dear cousin to thank profusely for giving us our Baby Bjorn as a gift. We never considered wearing our son as a fashion accessory but as a necessity for traveling and soothing in general.

Here is one photo of us when Lucian was just 8 weeks old. Wow. Where did the time go?

Now that you've read the disclaimer, here is my version of the low-down:

The advertising agency responsible for creating ads for the makers of the drug Motrin put out an ad on their website and it rubbed a lot of parents, mostly moms, the wrong way. Not even their own product is going to soothe the bemoaning from many angles this ad campaign has invoked. The ad is in the form of a movie clip which consists of a woman reading a script that matches in cadence with coordinating and artfully-placed typography that flash across the screen along with two-dimensional graphics.

In the opinion of mine as wells as many others, the ad suggests, by use of voice inflection and tone along with classic advertising techniques, that 'wearing your baby is a fad and causes undue pain and discomfort so if you're going to be ridiculous and put yourself into that situation, you should purchase our product.' Certain words used certain ways make it sound like they really don't stand behind baby wearing and they misconstrue the facts about the practice.

The ad attempts to guilt-trip the consumer into buying the product by indirectly insulting the consumer for thinking they are educated in trendy new parenting practices. Not many would dispute that new parents easily fall victim of ads because they are stressed out about making the right decisions for their new baby. This is classic advertising technique when they try to convince the consumer of a need they don't really have and it works especially well on already guilt-ridden new parents. [For example, if you choose to wear your child in a carrier the correct way and don't have any preexisting back pain issues, why would you need this product? You wouldn't, but damn if they don't make it all sound bad anyhow. Not sure about you, but I don't always think this logically when sleep deprived in the first few months of parenting.]

Recently, I learned from several of our doctors, emergency room as well as pediatricians, that ad campaigns for fever reducers have trained parents into over-medicating children to bring down fevers under 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Just take a look at the recent recalls for children's Tylenol products. Several doctors have now told us that by medicating a fever early on, we're actually keeping the child sicker for longer because we're not allowing the fever to do its job in making the child better faster. Drug companies would rather you spend more money on their products instead of letting nature take its course. My mother still finds that hard to believe, but after close to 40 years of being marketed to, I can understand why.

The ad in question for this particular drug, Motrin, has sparked major controversy and it blew up virally on Twitter and in the blogosphere last evening and early into this morning. So much so that Twitter actually choked a couple of times! (Not sure if #motrinmoms is the cause, but it's a funny coincidence.)

I posted a comment on Shake the Salt which is where I first read about it. Here is my initial reaction comment after Dave Taylor told me about it.
(By the way, Dave, I still like you even if I don't completely agree with you. You're a good guy!)

ok. I bite. I’ll even pick the meat off the bone. When it comes to baby wearing, I didn’t much, but my husband did. According to him, the ad isn’t necessarily offensive, but it is opportunist and inaccurate. I agree except I believe the ad also takes a low blow to attachment parenting practices like baby wearing and encourages the bias we constantly face. I didn’t wear my baby because my back couldn’t handle it, especially not after my stomach muscles had been cut to get my son out via C-section. I know a thing or two about taking ibuprofen for pain — and lots of it. (and I didn’t take Motrin mind you because the generic version costs less and works the same, so you can #suckit Motrin.)

I think the part that gets my goat is the snarky/snooty tone or attitude that the narrator seems to have when reading the script. It would have been one thing if she had said “baby wearing, if not done correctly, can be painful so we got your back.” No, instead, she goes on to belittle it in her tone and manner of speaking. Seems I’m not alone in this, so I can’t be that far off.

I worked many years in advertising so I tend to be even more critical of ads than most. Maybe this is an American movie culture bias, but I didn’t appreciate the word “schwing” used as one of the made-up names for other sling products. Perhaps the ad just wasn’t properly tested or else they would have known that “schwing” is a sexual reference. I felt compelled to mention this since it hasn’t been too long since breastfeeding was attacked by Bill Maher and I still feel the sting of that one. But that’s just me.

I highly recommend reading the transcript and looking at the words that are given emphasis. The psychology of this ad is clearly trying to play to the consumer’s ego. “What about me?” Nothing like trying to guilt you into purchasing their product. Aren’t moms and dads bombarded with enough guilt during the whole parenting experience? What’s a little more? Advertising most always tries to convince you of a problem you didn’t know you had.

This advertising is NOT about bringing awareness to baby wearing or attachment parenting and the aches and pains that might be part of the process. If anything, it’s a tongue in cheek way of ripping on it and THAT is the part I find irresponsible. The makers of Motrin aren’t horrible, they are just like many other ad campaigns who prey on “that demographic” who might be considering baby wearing.

This is a stretch, but I have to say it. Since Motrin costs more than generic brand, maybe you can afford it by not purchasing a fancy schmancy baby sling. After all, just where are your priorities you crazy baby-wearing parents! Doesn’t your back pain come first? Why would you dare to consider wearing your baby in a carrier if it’s so painful. Oh yeah, because “it’s a good pain, for your kid.” Well, if that’s the way you crazy baby-wearing moms choose to be, you better have some Motrin on hand because you’re gonna need it. My opinion is that the Ad Agency for Motrin is ethically irresponsible for playing with this idea because it’s negative propaganda against attachment parents or “fashionable moms” who choose to wear their babies as a necessity — not an accessory.

Lastly, the video player in the ad is wonky. Turn-off. There is no clear indicator of when it’s finished the loading process. I fumbled with it to get it to work, but others might not (as noted in the original blog post).

1. Don’t hate Motrin, be pissed at the ad agency who didn’t properly test this ad.

2. Remember, even bad publicity is still publicity. You’re selling Motrin right now.

3. Spread the word about how good baby slings and carriers really are and what your experience is with them.

4. Buy generic ibuprofen and take some like I’m going to right now.

My Personal Experience with Baby Wearing
In the beginning, when babies are little, you have them in the carrier face forward and the back of the carrier helps to support their bobbly head and neck. They sleep so much better when they can feel the warmth of a body and hear your heartbeat. This is a FACT that the ad tries to dismiss.

Baby Wearing is not only for moms. My husband absolutely glowed whenever he wore his son close to his heart. It gave me a much needed break after carrying our son for nine months of excruciating nerve compression and pain during my pregnancy. One of the biggest benefits was that since I breastfeed, the baby wearing for Daddy gave him a chance to bond and negate that helpless feeling a lot of new fathers have. At first, I wondered why he was so eager to be the baby wearer all the time and then we went out to a museum for the first time and I understood. When I was pregnant and fully showing, people would always smile at me when we went anywhere. When Nate was wearing Lucian, he got to get all of that attention. (I kinda felt like chopped liver and it helped me to empathize with my husband more.) He always had a smile plastered across his face whenever we went anywhere because he always wore Lucian so proudly. It was not a fashion statement at all but more so a well-adjusted new father because of the ability to bond better, feel needed and publicly show caring and affection for his new child.

Baby slings and carriers are a great help in traveling and going places. I can not imagine how we would have done it sanely without one. We have traveled up and back to Flagstaff without a stroller which saved room in our trunk for everything else (ten hours of driving). We have flown across the country and back several times with just simple luggage like a backpack on me and the baby on his daddy in a carrier. We didn't have to check a stroller and lug it around. Whew!

Don't Waste Your Time and Money on the Expensive Brand-Name Pain Pills
So, here are some links to some nice baby carriers and slings and people who promote them that I thought of off the top of my head. There are many, many more. You can also find them at second-hand shops. Buy one as a gift for an expecting friend or hand yours down if you're no longer using it. If you know of any more, please link to them on your blog and in twitter and help promote the positive effects of baby wearing and other practices of Attachment Parenting. I don't know a whole lot about slings personally but I would love to use one the next time we have a baby. If you know of a great sling you love, please let me know in a comment. I'd really appreciate that!

Baby Bjorn
DadLabs: How to Wear a Baby Bjorn
DadLabs: About Baby Bjorn
Snugli by Evenflo
Maya Wrap

Several blogs are offering linkbacks and traffic pushing in an effort to bring about awareness. I support that and wish I had the time and energy to link to all of the posts that keep showing up but several people are working on culminating it all together to attain a solution and my hope is that they get the ad pulled and bring about awareness to baby wearing and Attachment Parenting and similar parenting styles. Who knows, maybe stock in baby carriers and slings will go up and it will help the economy in one small way.

It's worth a try and there is only one way to find out.