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Hallmark in Hot Water

The Hallmark Channel waded into the deep end of a cultural and PR mess this week. Now I’m not going to use today’s post to ruminate on issues of morality or personal belief—but I do strongly feel that diversity and inclusion are certifiable strengths for any company. The topic at hand here is Hallmark Channel’s flip-flop on a hot button issue, and why it’s simply something that you cannot do.

Hallmark, a beloved brand and staple of the holiday season, received backlash for pulling a commercial depicting a same-sex couple kissing on their wedding day. The commercial was for Zola, an online wedding registry business. Think what you want about The Hallmark Channel’s initial decision to yank the ad, but where they really got it wrong was what they did yesterday by reinstating it.

That’s a blatant attempt to have it both ways, and one that has expectedly exploded right in The Hallmark Channel’s face.

If your company is going to succumb to the pressures of cultural outrage, it better be prepared to hold the line. By subsequently caving to the anger of their pulling of the commercial, Hallmark has shown that its network values are malleable simply based on profit.

Now, that shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. Networks have been running ads for brands that don’t align with their values and identity for decades—it’s about ad sales and the bottom line. But once you cross the cultural Rubicon and decide that a particular advertisement should not be shown on your network’s air, you better dig in and be prepared to defend that decision. The Hallmark Channel has made its problem worse by putting the commercial back into its rotation.

The real winner here is obviously Zola, who could not have ever dreamed of the amount of free publicity that would emerge from the ad buy on The Hallmark Channel. Whatever monetary figure they doled out for the spot is now paying dividends.

Moral issues will always be present in pop culture. It seems that multiple times a year we read one of these stories. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but no one is entitled to play both sides of the field.  

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