The recent online outcry about the Motrin advert has shown just how powerful a tool social media can be. For anyone who hasn’t heard the story, it’s about the pharmaceutical company upsetting mothers everywhere with an advert that was deemed condescending by the very mothers the company was targeting. You can read more about it here.
It comes after the furore over the poorly thought out press release issued by the BackUp Shotgun Rack company that took advantage of the Jennifer Hudson tragedy. These two events and others like them make it clear that some companies are still not getting the power of social media. Get something wrong online and boy you better be prepared for the backlash.
In Motrin’s case, the company has removed the ad from their website, although there are other versions that have made it to print so the damage could be long-running. In the BackUp example, the jury is still out on whether lessons have been learned.
Yet it’s also obvious in both cases that there have been some major lapses of co-ordinated and cohesive thinking. But who’s to blame for this – the agency that came up with these ideas, or the client that offered final approval?
Going by some of the comments doing the rounds on Twitter and the blogosphere, much of the thinking seems to be aimed at the marketing or advertising agency responsible for the Motrin campaign. After all, they’re the ones that came up with the idea in the first place, right?
So where does the final responsibility stand? Is it with the agency or the client? Someone must have approved the advert to go out, and that wouldn’t have been a decision that lay with the agency in question. It would have been one of the main decision-makers at Motrin.
And therein lies the quandary. Does the final decision really lie with the client? If I’m a pharmaceutical business owner that employs a marketing, PR or advertising agency to run a campaign for me, it’s because I trust them to do a job that I know nothing about. I’ll stick to making pills because that’s what I know. You’re my agency, you’re my specialist – you guide me.
But is that really true? I’m not so sure. Speaking from personal experience, when I’m putting together a PR campaign for a client, I’m there right up until the final decision. At that stage, I’ve offered all my recommendations, all my strategies and subsequent follow-ups. Now it’s up to my client to decide how he or she wants to move forward.
After all, this is their company that’s going to be out in the firing line if things go wrong, so they need to be 100% sure they’re happy with what they’re doing, and have the confidence to see it through. If they have any qualms at all, they don’t go ahead with the suggestions and we either start again or go our separate ways.
It’s a tough one to call. Company decision or agency recommendation.
What do you think? Should Motrin or businesses in the same situation be the ones that take responsibility? Or is it an agency problem?
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