What a weekend for the Hallmark Channel.
In case you missed it, the cable channel known for its cheerful, lovey-dovey holiday specials, where girl leaves the big city to move to a small town and meets the man of her dreams and ultimately decides to stay for love, found itself in a not-so-Hallmark-Channel setting this weekend.
The network pulled several ads from online wedding registry Zola featuring a same-sex couple kissing after facing pressure from a conservative group "One Million Moms," according to multiple reports.
The public backlash was fast and fierce. With the hashtag #BoycottHallmark trending over the weekend, Hallmark was reminded that we live in 2019 and quickly changed course.
In a statement, Mike Perry, President and CEO, Hallmark Cards, apologized for what he called "the wrong decision," and said the brand "will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences."
While I applaud Hallmark’s quick reversal, the network will need to do a much deeper dive as the dust continues to settle. A complete internal audit needs to be done immediately and serious questions need to be answered, including:
What happened after calls to pull the ads surfaced?
Who was ultimately responsible for making the decision?
What is the make-up of the team that makes these types of decisions? How will that change in the future, because it appears from this issue, it’s not a diverse one.
How did a team of c-suite executives think pulling the ads was the appropriate response?
What steps will Hallmark take to prevent it from happening in the future?
I want to know the answers to these questions, don’t you? For Hallmark, it’s time to be transparent and make their responses widely available.
If they are able to make this a learning experience for others in the industry who may be faced with the same decision, they may be able to gain respect from those they have hurt and, quite frankly, insulted.
What about programming?
I believe the decision to pull the spots is a symptom of a much larger issue at the network. It’s no secret the network lacks diversity and inclusion in its programming.
Moving forward, what changes will be made in the programming on-air? How will we start to see diversity in lead roles on the Hallmark Channel? If they’re really are going to embrace our differences, the stars featured in the programming need to reflect today’s heterogeneous society.
The bottom line
This past week goes beyond a serious PR fail for Hallmark. It’s a moment that will literally mark the brand in a negative way for years to come.
The only way to steer the ship back in the right direction is not by words, but by demonstrating their commitment with serious actions. Answer the tough questions. Be transparent. And, share what you’re doing next.
Hallmark Channel, will you do it?
Mark Pasetsky is Founder & CEO, Mark Allen & Co.