The owner of TV’s Hallmark Channel on Sunday reversed a decision to ban a commercial depicting a same-sex wedding, suggesting that it was not in keeping with the company’s well-known slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best.”
Earlier this week, Hallmark Channel decided to reject an ad from online-weddings firm Zola which showed two women getting married pondering how their wedding might have improved with the use of Zola’s services. The company cited a desire to avoid controversy, and a conservative advocacy organization, One Million Moms, had already started a petition urging the cable outlet to remove the ad from its schedule.
“The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials,” said Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, which controls Crown Media Networks, the parent company of Hallmark Channel, in a prepared statement. “Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.” He acknowledged the ban had caused “hurt and disappointment.”
The imbroglio threatened to overwhelm one of the Hallmark Channel’s biggest programming moments – a broad array of holiday-themed movies that attract broad audiences and the advertisers who wish to cultivate their disposable income. On Saturday night, Walt Disney’s Freeform cable network posted a message on Twitter saying that it would be happy to run Zola’s commercials. TV host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres questioned the decision on social media and the news was lampooned by NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” last night with a sketch in which a Hallmark Channel game-show host urged viewers to “stay straight out there.”
One critic who had excoriated Hallmark for its earlier rejection praised the company’s new stance. “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, ” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD. “LGBTQ people are, and will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change.”
TV networks regularly rush to take in holiday advertising, but Zola’s ad is the second in recent weeks to spark debate. A holiday commercial from Peloton, the online fitness company, launched criticism after some consumers took to social media to complain about the ad. Critics suggested the commercial, which depicted a fit woman using a Peloton bike her husband gave her as a gift, was being placed under pressure by her spouse to stay trim.