The Hallmark Channel, a major American television network, is reversing its decision to pull ads for a wedding-planning website that featured two brides kissing at the altar.
The TV network known for its annual line-up of holiday movies pulled four of six commercials depicting couples who wish they’d turned to Zola’s, a wedding service companies services for their big day.
Emails obtained by The Washington Post sent to Zola representatives were simple yet telling.
“We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” the note, sent from Hallmark to Zola read.
It seemed that Hallmark had rejected only the ads that showed a lesbian couple.
However, the cable channel was then hit with well-founded criticism on social media last Sunday, with the #BoycottHallmarkChannel hashtag trending on Twitter and celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres decrying the decision.
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” read a statement issued on Sunday by 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.
“Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials… We will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive & celebrate our differences.”
The ads initially were pulled when conservative advocacy group, One Million Moms, which is part of the American Family Association, complained directly to Bill Abbott, CEO of Hallmark parent Crown Media Family Networks.
One Million Moms also started a petition against the commercials which they believed violated to Hallmark’s “family friendly” reputation and gathered nearly 30,000 signatures.
A post on the group’s website said that Abbott “reported the advertisement aired in error.”
“The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network,” the group also wrote.
The decision to pull the ads astounded LGBTQ advocates, who viewed it as an iconic brand regressing amidst growing representation of different sexual orientations in media. Zola announced soon after it would stop advertising with the channel.
Of the six ads Zola submitted, four with lesbian couples were pulled by Hallmark, but not the two featuring only opposite-sex couples. Zola then pulled its remaining ads.
Zola’s chief marketing officer, Mike Chi said in a statement that the company was troubled when the commercials were rejected but happy to hear of the Hallmark Channel’s 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, and every day,” he said, confirming that Zola will be in touch with Hallmark in the coming days about a potential return to advertising.
While Hallmark may have pledged reversal last weekend, advocates have expressed concern over Hallmark’s initial caving to a small, but vocal fringe group.
One Million Moms has far fewer than one million supporters with just over 96,000 fans on Facebook, not even one-tenth of the number they claim in their name. The group also has only over 4,200 Twitter followers – meaning they don’t close to the same size or apparent purchasing power as the LGBTQI community.