Wedding planner website Zola will no longer run advertisements on the Hallmark Channel following the network’s decision to remove four commercials that featured a same-sex wedding.
The removal of the commercials followed petitions by conservative groups including One Million Moms and Lifesite that asked the network to not run films or commercials that featured the LGBTQ community. While cutting ads that featured same-sex weddings, the network continued to air two other Zola ads that did not.
In a statement sent Saturday to The Hollywood Reporter, a Hallmark spokesperson said, “Crown Media Family Networks made the decision to pull the commercials. The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis gave the following statement to THR in response to the incident: “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to remove LGBTQ families in such a blatant way is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are ‘open’ to LGBTQ holiday movies.”
She continued, “As so many other TV and cable networks showcase, LGBTQ families are part of family programming. Advertisers on The Hallmark Channel should see this news and question whether they want to be associated with a network that chooses to bow to fringe anti-LGBTQ activist groups, which solely exist to harm LGBTQ families.”
Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer, told THR, “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.”
The initial complaint to Hallmark from One Million Moms, a socially conservative group created by the American Family Association, stated, “Please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples, and please do not add LGBT movies to the Hallmark Channel. Such content goes against Christian and conservative values that are important to your primary audience. You will lose viewers if you cave to the LBGT agenda.”
The group later updated its website after saying it had communicated with Bill Abbott, CEO of Hallmark parent Crown Media Family Networks, who confirmed to One Million Moms that the commercials were pulled from the network. “He reported the advertisement aired in error, but he was informed about it after hearing from concerned 1MM supporters,” the updated statement read. “The call to our office gave us the opportunity to also confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family friendly network. Praise the Lord!”
Lifesite, founded by Campaign Life Coalition, began its petition one week ago and as of Saturday has over 40,000 signatures.
The Hollywood Reporter recently spoke with Abbott about inclusivity in Hallmark films. The CEO said Hallmark is “open” to doing any type of movie, including those with gay leads, which the network currently lacks.
“We are always encouraging people to bring us stories across the board,” Abbott told THR. “And it’s not always that simple a process where you put the word out and you get back three great scripts and three great stories. We put the word out that we’re doing an original series and we get 50 bad stories. So it’s not as easy as I think you’re making it sound, and it’s certainly something that we do discuss consistently with our team and with our talent and with the agencies.”
Zola’s campaign began airing Dec. 2 on the Hallmark Channel. Each commercial featured a couple at the altar, questioning whether guests would have arrived on time or purchased better wedding gifts had they begun their wedding planning process with Zola. Most of the ads featured a same-sex couple as well as heterosexual couples. One of the six ads solely featured a lesbian couple (seen below).
The commercials that feature two women getting married are still reportedly airing on several other networks as well as streaming on Hulu.
Dec.14, 4:25 p.m. Updated with statement from Hallmark.
Dec. 14, 6:32 p.m. Updated with statement from GLAAD.