A statement released by the Hallmark Channel on Sunday contained an announcement that the network is backtracking from a previous decision to pull same-sex marriage commercials.
An ad by wedding planning site Zola that included two brides kissing at the altar was pulled by the network after complaints were received from conservative group One Million Moms. At that point, a network spokesman said that the ad was removed because the controversy was a distraction.
After a social media uproar and a trending Twitter hashmark of #BoycottHallmark, the distraction became a public relations crisis for the channel.
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” stated Hallmark Cards CEO Mike Perry. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
The channel is an established entertainment network built around traditional, “family-friendly” values, so of course, it was only a matter of time before social justice warriors put Hallmark in their sights.
Top management officials at Hallmark have to be punch drunk after a series of public relations fiascos resulting from attacks surrounding political correctness. Other recent transgressions by the channel the left has seen fit to try to correct include Christmas movies that are too white and that their movies snub other religions’ holiday season.
Meanwhile, from the other side, Hallmark has been criticized for succumbing to the PC approach of avoiding the use of “Christmas” for the generic “holiday” label, even when referring to ornaments and sweaters.
The current controversy has become a marketing goldmine for Zola, with an immense amount of free publicity for the company. After submitting six wedding ads, with four including a lesbian couple, and only the two featuring opposite-sex couples being approved by Hallmark, Zola withdrew their ads and announced they would no longer advertise on the network.
“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,” said Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer. “All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”
Watch one of the Zola ads here …
Video by Zola
Public relations professionals now have another case study for how NOT to recognize trouble brewing. And how to instead anticipate and be prepared for manufactured outrage that today can seriously damage the corporate bottom line.
According to Fox News, a marketing analyst said that Hallmark bears responsibility for putting “itself in the middle of a PR crisis that it should have seen coming.” Paul Argenti, a Dartmouth College professor of corporate communication, said, “They’ve got trouble on their hands, and they’ve got to do something fast.”
Among celebrities who jumped on the bash-Hallmark bandwagon after the Zola ad controversy erupted were Ellen DeGeneres, William Shatner, and Sandra Bernhard. A Saturday Night Live skit this past weekend mocked Hallmark.
Sunday’s Hallmark statement said the network will be “working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community.” They will also make every effort to placate Zola and will reinstate the commercials if the wedding planning site is agreeable.
“Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences,” Perry said.
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