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Hallmark's same-sex marriage gaffe shows how social media is raising the stakes for marketers – NBCNews.com

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Hallmark’s rapid reversal on a same-sex marriage advertisement is a reflection of how rapidly the cross-currents of social media can change — and a lesson for brands on how responding to online feedback can be a double-edged sword in the age of Twitter.

Hallmark’s announcement Sunday that it would reinstate a commercial from wedding-planning site Zola showing a lesbian couple kissing came less than a week after its earlier decision to stop running the ad, following online petitions from two conservative groups objecting to the commercial.

Dec. 16, 201902:40

After Hallmark pulled the ad, it faced an online firestorm. Hashtags such as #BoycottHallmark gained traction and the company was criticized by LGBT-rights groups and celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted, “Isn’t it almost 2020? @hallmarkchannel, @billabbottHC… what are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.”

“This story really shows us that brands have to move quickly today when it comes to making decisions,” said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Hallmark moved very quickly to reverse their decision, and it’s unusual where you see a company make a big decision like this and then reverse the decision so quickly. This also really reflects how powerful social media is today,” he said.

Social channels make it easy for consumers to interact with and react to marketing messages in real time, Calkins said. “There is an opportunity to impact marketing with these social media efforts.”

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Todd Sears, founder and CEO of Out Leadership, said that brands are realizing they have to adapt their strategies as acceptance of same-sex marriage has become mainstream. “So many Americans, the majority, consider themselves allies to LGBT people,” he said. Whereas brands 10 or even five years ago might have specifically targeted only those consumers, today they need to be cognizant of the much larger market of people who view themselves LGBT supporters, he said.

“I can’t think of many companies that would have made a mistake like this in 2019,” Sears said, but he added that Hallmark’s prompt response and the tone it set could prevent any long-term fallout to the brand’s reputation. “It seems they learned a very hard lesson very quickly,” he said.

“Its apology was very heartfelt and there was an earnestness, a sincerity in the apology,” Calkins said.

Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, said in a statement Sunday, “We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused,” and said the executives who made the decision to initially pull the ad had been “agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused.”

Consumers today expect marketing campaigns to be inclusive and socially aware — and when brands fail on that front, they face criticism in nearly real time.

Consumers today expect marketing campaigns to be inclusive and socially aware, Calkins said. When brands fail on that front, they face criticism in nearly real time.

“People are holding companies to higher standards,” he said, citing the Peloton commercial that elicited charges of sexism on social media. “People expect companies to be leaders in conversations.”

Calkins also pointed out that one brand’s stumble can be another’s opportunity. In the wake of the Zola commercial controversy, other media platforms responded with messages of their own promoting inclusivity. “Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love/Let It Snow/Merry Happy Whatever,” Netflix said in a weekend tweet.

With more companies choosing to highlight same-sex couples or families in their advertising, Sears said the fact that Hallmark bowed to pressure from conservative groups in the first place is an indication of what he characterized as “the toxic political and social culture that the country is in right now.”

“Look at the erosion of LGBT rights under President Donald Trump’s administration,” he said. “We’re seeing there’s a culture of intolerance that has pervaded the country, and with that is a license to say things that otherwise would have been considered discriminatory.”

For brands, this can mean walking a tightrope when it comes to not offending a politically polarized consumer base. “In general, marketing leaders try to avoid controversy,” Calkins said, noting how quickly Hallmark initially responded to social media criticism from conservative groups before making its about-face. “What they didn’t think through was that the one controversy would lead to another controversy,” he said.

NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, and Comcast Ventures are investors in Zola. Comcast owns NBCUniversal.

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Social media deal earns advertisers' 'likes', but not yet all their dollars – Reuters Canada

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LONDON (Reuters) – Advertisers who boycotted social media are not all rushing back, despite an agreement by Facebook, YouTube and Twitter on how to curb harmful content online.

FILE PHOTO: 3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers, told Reuters the move this week was “a good step in the right direction,” but would not say whether it would resume paid advertising on Facebook in the United States next year after stopping over the summer.

Coca-Cola also remains paused on Facebook and Instagram and declined to say if this changed its view. Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Courvoisier Cognac, plans to stay away from paid advertising for the rest of 2020 and reassess in 2021 based on how Facebook adjusts its approach.

Over 1,000 advertisers joined a Facebook boycott over concerns it wasn’t doing enough to combat hate speech. U.S. civil rights groups enlisted multinationals to help pressure the social media giant after the June death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis.

“Brands are very concerned about having any affiliation with the disinformation that runs through the big tech platforms,” said Michael Priem, CEO of advertising technology firm Modern Impact.

Deciding whether to pull ads from social media can be tough. Larger brands can afford to take a stance, but for smaller businesses that have already been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, “it’s either make it or die,” Priem said.

On Wednesday, the World Federation of Advertisers announced that social media platforms and advertisers had committed to create common definitions of harmful content such as hate speech and harmonized reporting standards.

A Facebook spokeswoman said on Friday that advertisers were returning to the platform.

“For the most part advertisers are coming back because they recognize the efforts we’re making,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re never satisfied. We’ll continue to work with industry and with our clients.”

She said that 95% of the hate speech removed by Facebook is detected before being reported, up from 23% in 2017.

“Digital media is now more than half of all media spending yet is still operating with very few boundaries other than those that are self-imposed or that marketers try to enforce. It’s time for digital platforms to apply content standards properly,” Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, said on Wednesday.

The maker of Gillette razors and Pampers diapers said it will “continue to advocate for greater transparency, reporting, and enforcement” directly with platforms and through industry forums.

COMING BACK

Many companies, such as drinks giant Pernod Ricard, returned to Facebook in August after a one-month pause aimed at sending a message.

“I feel very happy … with the outcome. I think it worked,” said Eric Benoist, global marketing director for the maker of Absolut vodka and Martell Cognac. “It was a wake-up call. They heard it loud and clear.”

Some advertisers, like spirits group Diageo, came back following direct engagement with the platform and evidence of action.

“Some progress has been made, but more needs to be done and we think we’re better able to bring about change by working together,” a Diageo spokeswoman said. “We are in the process of resuming paid media and will continue to drive accountability on these pressing issues.”

Campaign organizers remain skeptical and pledged to keep up the heat.

“We cannot assume progress from yet another commitment to change until we see the impact and breadth of policy enforcement by these companies,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, a backer of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which organized the boycott.

“As long as these companies continue to abdicate their responsibility to their most vulnerable users, we will continue to call on Congress and regulatory agencies to intervene.”

Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in New York and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Carmel Crimmins

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Anaconda Mining fires employee for racist, homophobic social media posts – CBC.ca

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A former employee of Anaconda Mining made racist and homophobic posts on Facebook. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

A St. John’s man says he’s happy with the actions taken by a mining company with operations in Newfoundland and Labrador after he reported an employee’s racist and homophobic posts.

Earlier this month, Devon Bryan noticed anti-Black Lives Matter posts on Facebook that a former classmate had responded to by commenting, “White Lives Matter.”

The posts read “BLM is now known as Burn, Loot & Murder (pass it on)” and “F**k BLM bullshit.” Bryan decided to call out his former classmate’s comments, he told CBC News, and received an aggressive response.

“It turned into body shaming and it turned into homophobic slurs, racial slurs. And he really ticked off all of the boxes for discrimination,” said Bryan.

The classmate did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment. CBC News is not identifying him. 

Bryan, a member of the LGBT community, noticed his former classmate listed his employer as Anaconda Mining, which operates in Baie Verte, N.L., so he tagged the company in a response to his classmate’s posts, and followed up with a phone call.

“You can’t expect to represent your professional life and hold these extreme opinions and express them freely without repercussion, because once you represent your place of work on social media, it’s no longer a completely private page anymore,” said Bryan. 

Satisfied with company’s response

Bryan said the company was prompt and courteous in its response. And while, due to privacy regulations, the company would not tell him what happened, Bryan said he learned later his former classmate was no longer with the company.

Anaconda Mining declined to confirm to CBC News the employee had been let go, saying the company would not comment on matters “regarding private employment relationships. 

The fired employee had publicly identified he worked at Anaconda Mining’s operation in Baie Verte. (Melissa Tobin/CBC)

In a statement, Lynn Hammond, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs, said the company has a comprehensive respectful workplace policy and harassment prevention plan and that their employees are required to participate in training specifically related to the policy.

Employees are also required to sign a document to acknowledge that they understand and will adhere to the policy and failure to comply with any part of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

In the aftermath of Bryan’s interactions with him, members of the former employee’s family posted on Facebook that the situation had caused financial and emotional stress.

Bryan said his former classmate should have thought of the consequences before making the comments he made.

“I do feel terribly that, you know, I’m causing a whole family stress,” said Bryan. “But at the bottom line, that’s completely on him.” 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Social media deal earns advertisers' 'likes', but not yet all their dollars – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) – Advertisers who boycotted social media are not all rushing back, despite an agreement by Facebook, YouTube and Twitter on how to curb harmful content online.

Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers, told Reuters the move this week was “a good step in the right direction,” but would not say whether it would resume paid advertising on Facebook in the United States next year after stopping over the summer.

Coca-Cola also remains paused on Facebook and Instagram and declined to say if this changed its view. Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Courvoisier Cognac, plans to stay away from paid advertising for the rest of 2020 and reassess in 2021 based on how Facebook adjusts its approach.

Over 1,000 advertisers joined a Facebook boycott over concerns it wasn’t doing enough to combat hate speech. U.S. civil rights groups enlisted multinationals to help pressure the social media giant after the June death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis.

“Brands are very concerned about having any affiliation with the disinformation that runs through the big tech platforms,” said Michael Priem, CEO of advertising technology firm Modern Impact.

Deciding whether to pull ads from social media can be tough. Larger brands can afford to take a stance, but for smaller businesses that have already been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, “it’s either make it or die,” Priem said.

On Wednesday, the World Federation of Advertisers announced that social media platforms and advertisers had committed to create common definitions of harmful content such as hate speech and harmonized reporting standards.

A Facebook spokeswoman said on Friday that advertisers were returning to the platform.

“For the most part advertisers are coming back because they recognize the efforts we’re making,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re never satisfied. We’ll continue to work with industry and with our clients.”

She said that 95% of the hate speech removed by Facebook is detected before being reported, up from 23% in 2017.

“Digital media is now more than half of all media spending yet is still operating with very few boundaries other than those that are self-imposed or that marketers try to enforce. It’s time for digital platforms to apply content standards properly,” Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, said on Wednesday.

The maker of Gillette razors and Pampers diapers said it will “continue to advocate for greater transparency, reporting, and enforcement” directly with platforms and through industry forums.

COMING BACK

Many companies, such as drinks giant Pernod Ricard, returned to Facebook in August after a one-month pause aimed at sending a message.

“I feel very happy … with the outcome. I think it worked,” said Eric Benoist, global marketing director for the maker of Absolut vodka and Martell Cognac. “It was a wake-up call. They heard it loud and clear.”

Some advertisers, like spirits group Diageo, came back following direct engagement with the platform and evidence of action.

“Some progress has been made, but more needs to be done and we think we’re better able to bring about change by working together,” a Diageo spokeswoman said. “We are in the process of resuming paid media and will continue to drive accountability on these pressing issues.”

Campaign organizers remain skeptical and pledged to keep up the heat.

“We cannot assume progress from yet another commitment to change until we see the impact and breadth of policy enforcement by these companies,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, a backer of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which organized the boycott.

“As long as these companies continue to abdicate their responsibility to their most vulnerable users, we will continue to call on Congress and regulatory agencies to intervene.” 

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in New York and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)

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