UPDATE: CEO Says “This Was the Wrong Decision” –Hallmark Will “Reinstate” Pulled Zola Ads
The Hallmark Channel has pulled ads for Zola, a wedding-planning website, that featured two brides kissing at the altar.
The family-friendly network removed the ads under pressure from a conservative advocacy group, because the controversy was a distraction, a spokesperson said in an interview yesterday.
Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark said in a statement,
“The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”
The Hallmark brand is never going to be divisive. We don’t want to generate controversy, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it … we just felt it was in the best interest of the brand to pull them and not continue to generate controversy.”
There was immediate criticism on Twitter. Ellen DeGeneres asked Hallmark:
“Isn’t it almost 2020? What are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.”
Biwer confirmed that a conservative group, One Million Moms, part of the American Family Association, had complained about the ads to Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company.
A post on the group’s website said that Abbott
“reported the advertisement aired in error.”
The group also wrote:
“The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network.”
Zola had submitted six ads, and four had a lesbian couple. After Hallmark pulled those ads, but NOT two featuring opposite-sex couples, Zola pulled its remaining ads.
Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement sent to the AP,
“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.
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”
Sandra Bernhard, who played one of the first openly bisexual characters on network TV in Roseanne, also criticized Hallmark’s decision. She wrote on Twitter,
“All the groovy gay ladies i know won’t be watching your Christmas schlock.
They’ll be out celebrating with their ’families’ wives, children, friends on & on & getting married in chic ensembles. Didn’t you all get the memo? Family is all inclusive.”
Why? Did it disturb they’re delicate senses? How pathetic https://t.co/QBSFW5m4IH— Sandra Bernhard (@SandraBernhard) December 14, 2019
The developments came as Hallmark appeared to be considering more same-sex themed content.
Asked about the possibility of holiday movies based on same-sex relationships, Abbott was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter in mid-November as saying on its TV podcast:
“We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship.”
Here’s one of the ads that were pulled by Hallmark.
One again, Paul Rudnick nails it with biting humor…
In the Hallmark movie I Married My Mom, ad exec Molly returns to her Vermont hometown where she meets Tarp, a handsome mortician. “You remind me of someone,” says Molly. “Because I’m your son,” says Tarp, and Santa marries them on Xmas Eve. “At least we’re not gay,” they explain pic.twitter.com/OfAGPnX7EU— Paul Rudnick (@PaulRudnickNY) December 15, 2019
(Photo, screen grab; via ABC News)