Hallmark backtracked its decision to pull the ads following online backlash and issued an apology to Zola on Sunday.
The Hallmark Channel had a controversy-filled weekend after it decided to pull four TV ads featuring a same-sex couple kissing each other. Yielding to a conservative group's objections, the channel dropped the wedding-planning website Zola's commercials simply because it showed two brides kissing. Justifying the move, Hallmark claimed it does not accept ads "that are deemed controversial" and that the lesbian couple's "public displays of affection" violated the channel's policies. However, a Hallmark spokesman had no answer for why the "public displays of affection" by a bride and groom in a nearly identical ad didn't violate these same policies.
The Hallmark Channel pulled ads featuring a lesbian couple kissing after a petition by the conservative group One Million Moms https://t.co/4bou9nARMx— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) December 14, 2019
According to The New York Post, the series of six Zola ads first appeared on the Hallmark Channel on December 2. While the ads feature several configurations of couples, their premise is more or less the same. While a few of these ads show the couples kiss each other at the altar or in the aisle while surrounded by their friends, it was the sight of the lesbian couple in the mix that ruffled the feathers of One Million Moms, a conservative group part of the American Family Association.
The “One Million Moms” group got 25,000 signatures on a petition. That’s exactly 2.5% of their own (alleged) membership numbers. What a pathetic show of force you caved to, @hallmarkchannel. https://t.co/OXkFNtwjVw— shauna (@goldengateblond) December 15, 2019
Well done, @hallmarkchannel! You got #boycotthallmark trending because you caved to "One Million Moms."— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) December 15, 2019
FUN FACT: "One Million Moms" added <300 followers in the past 3 years and still doesn't have 4,000 followers. It's probably some dude sitting at a card table in his undies. pic.twitter.com/v7r06Yu0sa
The socially conservative group which describes itself as "the most powerful tool you have to stand against the immorality, violence, vulgarity, and profanity the entertainment media is throwing at your children," published a petition "asking Hallmark to stay true to its family-friendly roots that so many families have grown to love, and to keep sex and sexual content – including the promotion of homosexuality – out of its programming."
With the petition gaining traction, Hallmark notified Zola on Thursday that four of the six ads would be pulled off the air. "The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content, and many other categories," a Hallmark Channel spokesman said on Friday afternoon.
On Friday evening, Hallmark's parent company Crown Media Family Networks officially announced its decision to pull the ads, stating that "the debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value."
For Mike Chi, the chief marketing officer of Zola, this move came as quite a surprise as they've previously run ads featuring same-sex couples on the Hallmark channel without any issues. "The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing," he said.
"Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed. All kisses, couples, and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark," Chi added.
Meanwhile, as news of Hallmark's decision to pull the ads reached netizens, Twitter exploded with angry tweets by members of the LGBTQ community and allies. The #BoycottHallmarkChannel spread across the platform and celebrities of the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Monica Lewinsky, and Bridget Regan called attention to the issue.
TRY THIS @hallmarkchannel :— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) December 15, 2019
We apologize to the LGBTQ community + your allies. We used an outdated mode of decision making. It was wrong. We’re sorry.
We’re taking steps to make sure this never happens again.
We’re now running the ad in all of our programming every comm break.
Hey @hallmarkchannel, this is incrediblly disappointing and disheartening. I thought #Hallmark was all about spreading love -especially this time of year. Instead you are endorsing discrimination. It’s time to give respect to LGBTQ families and communities. 🏳️🌈 https://t.co/l2cfh2pskb— Bridget Regan (@BridgetRegan) December 15, 2019
Hallmark backtracked its decision to pull the ads following the online backlash and issued an apology to Zola on Sunday, reports The Hollywood Reporter. "The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused. Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused... Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences," said Hallmark Cards Inc. president and CEO, Mike Perry, in a statement.
Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials. pic.twitter.com/p17nJpnjEB— Hallmark (@Hallmark) December 16, 2019
In a statement posted on its corporate website, Hallmark added that it "is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion – both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark’s intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it."
The channel also announced that it would be "working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials."
I’m happy to announce that my feud with Hallmark is officially over. But buckle up bitches, because my feud with One Million Moms has only just begun. https://t.co/WSg6H2SjuM— Marie Connor (@thistallawkgirl) December 16, 2019
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis applauded the reinstatement, saying, "The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine. LGBTQ people are and will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change. GLAAD exists to hold brands like The Hallmark Channel accountable when they make discriminatory decisions and to proactively ensure families of all kinds are represented in fair and accurate ways."
Hallmark clearly just realized how many gay people watch their Christmas movies.— Fortune Feimster (@fortunefunny) December 16, 2019
Hallmark reversed their decision!— Scott Dworkin (@funder) December 16, 2019
The Resistance wins again! 🇺🇸 🏳️🌈