The cable network changes its stance on playing a “gay commercial” and it leads to bad-tidings.
It has become an annual holiday tradition in this country: The cable network The Hallmark channel releases an avalanche of Christmas-themed movies and various reactionaries have to come out with contemptuous commentary about these offerings. They have been accused of being Red State pandering agitprop, of being Trumpian nightmare fantasies, and — of course — inherently racist entertainment.
The amusement rests in all of these outrages managing to invalidate themselves in the process. As the LA Times notes, as it strives to say the ratings reflect the electoral college map, “The channel’s programming is politically agnostic.” While Slate strives to paint the network as a dystopian MAGA metropolis, the writer invalidates his claim by noting, “These movies offer giddy, predictable escapes from Trumpian chaos.” Even the charge of a white-washed white Christmas falls apart once you crunch the numbers; despite complaints as to how few POC performers appear in the films, the numbers are actually slightly higher than the national census figures.
Yet, as we have seen recently, it is not only the Cancel Culture-obsessed left who reacts with an activist fervor. Recently The Hallmark Channel pulled a series of commercials from the wedding registry company Zola, which featured a pair of women kissing affectionately. (View the commercial here). Now, in just a matter of days, the channel says it is reversing course and reinstating the commercials to run. The result? A marketing mess.
The initial complaint last week came from One Million Moms, part of the conservative American Family Association, a religious activist group. But as THC will be reinstating the ads, Zola has not fully returned to the fold and has yet to professionally accept the apology from the Crown Family Media Networks, Hallmark’s broadcast division. Zola initially responded by saying it would no longer advertise on the network for the foreseeable future.
The Hallmark Channel released a statement Sunday stating it would work with GLAAD to, “better represent the LGBTQ community” in the future. It also wanted to initiate talks with Zola to reengage with the company and would go back to running the commercials. Following the announced replacement of the ads Zola was still non-committal about continuing to work with the channels going forward.
So now Crown Media has possibly chased off an advertiser, certainly has angered the activist group it initially tried to appease, and received negative publicity for an entire weekend during its rush up to Christmas, possibly impacting ratings as a result. All of this could have been avoided with one basic solution.
Crown Media could have simply done nothing.
We have seen it play out repeatedly: When a company wades into the activist side of the culture it normally has a negative impact on revenues. Even if the cancel-culture message is coming from the right-of-center, it is no less of a minefield for a company. As a broadcaster, Crown Media has been very successful with its formula, posting double-digit gains in audience in recent years. This holiday season the Hallmark Christmas movies are playing on three of its networks, with nearly two dozen new titles debuting this year. But now, by simply reacting, the broadcaster finds itself with a thorny problem to contend with, just ten days away from Christmas.
As frequently is seen, the initial outrage may have come from a questionable source. Does the religious activist group actually represent a core audience of Hallmark Channels? In much the same fashion that the channels are politically agnostic, they also are not particularly theistic. Rare is the holiday offering that invokes any type of religious narrative. There may be the occasional carols being sung with Christian lyrics, and maybe a scene here and there involving a church, but there is no religious messaging to be heard. It is all seasonal-holiday-yuletide bromides being spoken.
This means Crown Media could have initially been reacting to a group that does not represent its audience in the first place. This would be reminiscent of what we saw play out with Dick’s Sporting Goods, when the company took a very vocal anti-gun stance regarding its stores. The CEO felt he was earning good PR by virtue signaling, but in the end what happened was they drove away the gun buyers with no commensurate customer base earned in return. To this day, the company is enduring lost revenues.
Now Crown Media is temporarily in the lurch. Over the weekend there were social calls to boycott the channels, and gay rights groups were vocal in opposition. But these are voices from a demographic that was not really in play, to begin with. Will these be viewers to be lured now to watch, and will a religious segment turn away?
It all remains to be seen, but the unknown anxiety being experienced is something the networks did not have to go through. Sometimes not listening to the cranks is the best course of action for a business.