Maybe you’ve seen it – a Pampers nappies ad full of premature babies looking impossibly tiny and fragile (one looks a lot like Daphne did when she was a few weeks old) with swelling music and captions like ‘when you arrive early, every day is a battle.’ There are packs of Pampers nappies interspersed throughout the ad and a close up of adults hands holding a doll-sized nappy, for scale.
Pampers has unveiled their micro-preemie nappy – until recently, the smallest available (for commercial or hospital use) were for 2-5 lbs (1-2.5 kilos). They have donated three million tiny nappies to hospitals around the UK and have also sponsored a social media campaign, #powerofbabies, where parents are invited to tag pictures of infants with a raised fist. For every hashtag, Pampers will donate £1 to Bliss, a charity that supports families of NICU babies (‘For babies born premature or sick’ is their tagline).
I have a lot of feels about this ad campaign, which was launched on 26 April 2017 (or at least that’s when the HuffPost published an article about it). They are mostly negative feels.
On the one hand, it is amazing that Pampers has found a way to support micro-preemies, who are classified as babies weighing less than 800 g (1.8 lbs). Daphne was 820 g when she was born, so I have a firsthand understanding of just how tiny that is. The partnership with Bliss is great – they were amazing when we were in hospital. And three million nappies is a lot of nappies.
On the other hand, the ad feels exploitative and gross. It has a triumphant narrative – as, thankfully, most NICU journeys do – but it shows actual footage of preemies and parents in the hospital. Its using people’s personal tragedies for commercial gain. Furthermore, those nappies are not commercially available: they don’t need to be. There is no world in which a 1 kilo baby is anywhere but the NICU. And while Pampers may have made a cracking nappy, we used generic micro-preemie nappies for Daphne with no visible advertising before she graduated to Libero premature newborn nappies, so I can confirm that their claim to have revolutionised micro-preemie diapering with their new nappy does not hold up. And the #powerofbabies tag, which as of today has 1,517 posts on Instagram, is another opportunity for Pampers to leverage premature babes’ tragedy for commercial reasons. The one-minute advertisement has 90k views on YouTube.
In the end, it feels exploitative: the advertisement is leveraging people’s tragedies to hawk a product you can’t even buy. The donations with which it is coupled feel mercantile rather than altruistic. And while I am very much a believer in the #powerofbabies, I can’t quite bring myself to start tagging my Instagram posts accordingly.