January 2, 2020
Hallmark Reverses Course on “Inclusion”
The voice of the public can get loud in a hurry these days, especially on social media. A handful of influencers, or a few key people on Twitter or Instagram, and suddenly it feels like the world is against your brand. Just ask The Hallmark Channel.
Last week, a story started trending on social media with people reacting to an announcement that Hallmark Channel would not be running ads for a wedding planning website,which featured a same-sex couple kissing at the altar. The decision to pull the ads were, reportedly, in response to complaints from the American Family Association, via One Million Moms. When it was announced that the ad would be pulled, the AFA celebrated on social media, with the following post: “The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network…”
Furor ensued, bolstered by posts and tweets from celebrities such as William Shatner and Ellen DeGeneres. Then, the wedding company pulled the rest of its ads on the network. That news added fuel to the fire, leading to a trending “BoycottHallmarkChannel” campaign.
As a result of the “boycott” hashtag, Hallmark Channel spokespeople announced the channel is “reversing course” on its earlier decision to pull the ads. In a statement, the company said: “The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused… We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
The wedding planning company’s CMO, Mike Chi, released a statement to the media expressing “relief” at the reversal: “We are humbled by everyone who showed support, not only for Zola, but for all the LGBTQ couples and families who express their love on their wedding day…”
Other advocacy groups cheered the decision as well, as those who initially called for the boycott slowly reversed their own course. However, some were not so quick to forgive, saying the channel should not have bowed to the AFA in the first place.
Hallmark got to the heart of the matter when it called the controversy an unwelcome distraction. The channel is in the heart of its popular holiday programming season, a time when non-stop “feel-good” holiday movies draw countless views to the channel. A spokesperson for the company added: “We celebrate all families. Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.”
While some are lauding that sentiment, Hallmark brought the “distraction” on themselves by diving into the culture wars without a plan to stick to their guns.