In a powerful demonstration of how social media can whip up a firestorm of discontent in a matter of hours, Johnson & Johnson was caught off guard this weekend when Twittering mothers took offense at a new ad that was featured on the Motrin website.
As this article in Forbes relates, this new ad "tried to appeal to moms with an attempt at a chatty copy about using Motrin to treat sore muscles that result from a baby carrier" but target audience moms on Twitter were offended and unleashed a flood of scathing comments over the weekend. Eventually, but not before the damage was done, J&J shut down the Motrin website and sent out an email apologizing for the unintended offense.
One can argue about the merits of the ad but what's clear is that companies can't afford to take the weekend off anymore. Social media is 24/7 and, as BL Ochman points out (here), the blogging and social media community know that the weekend is the best time to cause trouble for corporations because they are not paying attention to what's going on then.
Another important lesson from this incident is to design your website so that it can be easily updated. As David Armano points out, J&J couldn't remove the ad from its website once it had decided that's what it wanted to do and its only option was to close the whole site down. A differently-designed website that allowed for rapid updates would have helped.
As to what J&J should do now, it looks like it has started down the right track with its apology and crises like this can be sometimes be turned into opportunities. There's now a large community of moms on Twitter, for example, who are interested in Motrin. Engaging with this community and asking for their ideas could turn a bad weekend into a new beginning.
Here's a link to a summary of the Twitter posts.