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Amid Backlash, Hallmark Channel To 'Reinstate' Same-Sex Wedding Ad


The Hallmark Channel is in a bit of a mess over an ad campaign for Zola, which is a wedding planning website. The channel recently aired this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (As character) Do you think Zola could have made planning your perfect wedding easier?


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (As character) I do.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: We've helped a million couples plan their weddings.

KING: Now, in that ad, there is a same-sex couple - two brides - and they kiss. A conservative group complained, and Hallmark pulled the campaign. But then the network reversed its decision. NPR's Linda Holmes has been following all this. She hosts the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Good morning.


KING: So who called for this ad to be pulled in the first place?

HOLMES: Well, the group is called One Million Moms. They're a conservative group that's part of the American Family Association. This was part of a group of six ads. Hallmark responded by pulling four of them or flagging four of them, all of which featured this couple that was the two women. And the - they said, essentially, we don't want controversy. We don't want any distractions. We don't want to be divisive. Essentially, the - kind of the we-don't-want-any-trouble (laughter) of network responses. And they pulled the ones that featured the lesbian couple.

KING: We don't want any trouble is usually where things start to get - start to go wrong these days. There was this big outcry on social media and other places. Who were some of the prominent people that drew attention to this?

HOLMES: Well, there were advocacy groups like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, also people like presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner. I mean, it was sort of everybody from a variety of places.

KING: And then you have Zola, the company who produced the ad. They're a wedding planning company. How did they respond when the ads were pulled?

HOLMES: Well, they said, if you don't want all of our ads, we will pull all of our ads. And they walked away. They were happy to walk away. They stood by their ads. They said, this is ridiculous; all that this is about is two women instead of a man and a woman. And they pulled all of their stuff.

KING: And in the end, I'm sure they probably got some pretty - a pretty good publicity boost from this whole incident, yes?

HOLMES: To tell you the truth, if there's a winner in this whole thing, it's probably Zola, which I think made themselves a lot more visible to a lot of people and I think got a lot of credit for sticking to their guns about the ads.

KING: Yeah. Hallmark did, in the end, reverse this decision. They called it, quote, "a wrong decision." But worth pointing out - Hallmark's been criticized on a couple other fronts recently, including that their holiday movies have not been good on representation. What's the controversy there?

HOLMES: Well, they absolutely have made a lot of holiday movies that are extremely white. They've just started to incorporate some black couples and a few, I think, Latinx couples. But very white, very focused on Christmas only. They've just started to incorporate a couple of Hanukkah-celebrating characters, although there's been some controversy around that, including the fact that it's sort of, like, it's Jewish Christmas, which is not true, of course.

KING: Right.

HOLMES: But they kind of treat it that way. So yeah, they've never done great. And the funny thing is, when they put the ads back or when they offered to put the ads back, they said, we don't want any trouble, basically. We don't want controversy.


KING: Ultimately, does Hallmark learn from this?

HOLMES: I mean, one would hope so. And interestingly enough, the Hallmark Cards parent company has groom-and-groom and bride-and-bride wedding cards, so.

KING: Oh, that is interesting. Linda Holmes, host of NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Linda, thanks so much.

HOLMES: Thank you.


Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.