The Hallmark Channel has pulled several of its advertisements for the wedding planning service Zola after social media backlash to a commercial featuring a lesbian wedding. Viewers — particularly self-identified conservatives — were calling for a boycott of the network if the ads stayed on. Hallmark capitulated this weekend.
The Zola commercials first appeared on the Hallmark Channel on Dec. 2, just as the holiday movie season was getting underway. According to a report by The New York Times, the ads were pulled on Friday amid online backlash. A spokesman for the network claimed that the ads violated company policy for Hallmark's parent company, Crown Media.
"We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial," a Hallmark representative said in an email exchange with reporters.
"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," they went on.
The rep would not specify how the ads were a violation of company policy, nor why an identical ad with a bride and groom was accepted by the network. Only four out of six of the ads were dropped, and in one of the ones that was kept, a bride and groom share a prolonged, impassioned kiss on screen.
The Zola ads were a serialized story told in six parts. They each featured several couples of different orientations, all partaking in their wedding days. Each couple thinks about their regret over not using Zola to plan their wedding.
Most of the ads featured same-sex female couples, with heterosexual couples as well. One particular ad focused only on a single lesbian couple. The American Family Association's One Million Moms published a petition calling this ad "indecency," asking Hallmark to "please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples."
The petition has over 26,000 signatures at the time of this writing. It now includes an update celebrating its success.
"We appreciate their prompt response and cooperation. No further action is needed! You are making a HUGE difference!" it reads.0comments
The chief marketing officer of Zola, Mike Chi, issued his own statement expressing surprise over Hallmark's reaction to the petition. He noted that the network has run commercials for Zola with same-sex couples before.
"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."