Hallmark’s Christmas PR Nightmare

Hallmark Cards is a Kansas City-based greeting card and stationery company founded by Joyce Hall in 1910, and an American icon. Their channel – as repeatedly demonstrated – is a ratings darling, especially during Christmas; harkening a time when Hollywood actually made movies about the holiday season and how everyone comes together.

And although Hallmark has catered to LGBTQ customers with their greeting cards in the past (and continues to do so today), the community is now turning against them, as according to Fox News, the Hallmark Channel dropped four ads – one of them featuring lesbian brides – from a wedding registry company founded in 2013 called Zola:

A Hallmark representative told Fox:

The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.

As a result of this, a public relations nightmare has broken out. Zola recently announced that they would no-longer advertise on Hallmark at all, but will continue to advertise on the “big three” networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). Many Hollywood celebrities and competitors like Netflix and the Disney-owned cable channel Freeform have decided to mock the decision too.

The decision to drop the ads was reversed the following Sunday, but at this point, the damage is already done. It’s unfortunate, especially since Hallmark is really big on diversity and inclusion, as any company should be. In fact, the Human Rights Campaign – up until last weekend – consistently ranked them high on their Corporate Equality Index every year. Objectively speaking, they did not  do a very good job at handling this situation very well – and alienated both conservatives and LGBTQ activists alike. But in their defense, being used as a political football was probably never their intention in the first place.

Obviously, although LGBTQ rights have been the law of the land since 2015, it continues to divide Americans, and that’s what makes the Hallmark situation interesting. But no matter how you feel about gay issues, respect should be brought into the debate. As private businesses, Hallmark and Zola have the respective right to do whatever they want. For example, if Zola wants to air ads featuring a lesbian couple, let them do so. Both One Million Moms and the HRC have the right to promote their respective causes as well, but are currently doing a disservice by putting these businesses, especially Hallmark, in an embarrassing situation. Organized retaliation is not okay.

If you don’t like the decision Hallmark made recently, don’t watch their channel or buy their products. Or in Zola’s case, if you don’t like their commercials, don’t use their service. Either is fine, but to force either business to think like you – whether you’re liberal or conservative – is wrong. The free market needs to engage in both products and ideas displayed openly without any kind of threat. But, there are people on both sides who use situations like this for their own personal gain, and that’s what’s unfortunately happening here.

Nobody’s forcing anyone to buy greeting cards and watch sappy Christmas movies from Hallmark, or plan weddings with Zola. And if both companies want to sell their respective products, no political activist on either side of the isle should try to hurt either business because they don’t agree with their political views.

Although the people at Hallmark obviously didn’t understand the situation they would find themselves in, there is no excuse for exploiting their situation like this. Both sides of the political spectrum should be ashamed of themselves for doing so and, in addition, adding more stress to their executives and employees.

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