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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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Ryan Reynolds Jokes About Taylor Swift’s Astronomical Babysitting Rates

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Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are a Hollywood power couple with four adorable children. But juggling busy careers and a growing family can be a challenge, even for A-listers. Enter their close friend, pop icon Taylor Swift, who, according to Reynolds, might be their go-to babysitter. However, her services come with a hefty price tag (at least according to Reynolds‘ playful exaggeration).

During a recent E! News interview promoting their upcoming movie “Deadpool & Wolverine,” Hugh Jackman playfully suggested that Swift was the real nanny for Reynolds and Lively’s four children. This lighthearted jab sparked a humorous response from Reynolds.

Known for his sharp wit, Reynolds responded to Jackman’s comment with a hilarious quip. He stated that the cost of having Taylor Swift babysit would be “cost-prohibitive,” implying that her rates would be astronomically high. He even playfully added, “But I think what he meant was, ‘Cost-insane-what-are-you-doing-I’m-no-longer-you’re-accountant.'”

Reynolds and Lively, who tied the knot in 2012, share four children: James (9), Inez (7), Betty (4), and a one-year-old whose name and gender remain private. The couple has maintained a close friendship with Swift over the years. This strong bond is evident in their recent attendance at a stop of her Eras Tour in Spain, along with their three eldest children.

Swift’s friendship with the Reynolds family extends beyond casual hangouts. During the concert in Spain, she gave a heartwarming shout-out to the couple’s daughters. While introducing her album “Folklore,” she mentioned the names James, Inez, and Betty, sending the audience into a frenzy. This sweet gesture further highlights the special bond between the singer and the Reynolds children.

This isn’t the first time Swift has incorporated the girls’ names into her music.  Her 2020 album “Folklore” features a song titled “Betty” that tells a story of a love triangle involving characters named James, Inez, and Betty. Additionally, her 2017 album “Reputation” included a voice recording of James on the song “Gorgeous.”

Whether Swift truly babysits for the Reynolds family or not remains a playful mystery. However, one thing is certain: the singer holds a special place in the hearts of the Reynolds children and their parents.

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The Simmering Feud Between Eva Mendes and Rachel McAdams

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The 2004 romantic drama “The Notebook” continues to be a pop culture phenomenon, captivating audiences with its passionate love story between Noah and Allie, played by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. But beyond the on-screen romance, rumours of tension between the actors and Gosling’s current partner, Eva Mendes, have added a layer of intrigue to the film’s legacy.

 

From Clashing Personalities to Real-Life Romance

While their undeniable on-screen chemistry led to a blockbuster performance, Gosling and McAdams reportedly had a tumultuous time during filming. “We inspired the worst in each other,” Gosling admitted to The Guardian. However, their initial animosity blossomed into a real-life romance in 2005, sending shivers down the spines of fans who had rooted for Noah and Allie.

 

Love Found, Love Lost

Their off-screen love story, however, wasn’t a fairytale. After two years, the couple went their separate ways. McAdams found happiness and a family with screenwriter Jamie Linden, while Gosling met his current partner, Eva Mendes, on the set of “The Place Beyond the Pines” in 2011. Together, they have built a life and share two daughters.

 

A Post-Breakup Conundrum: Maintaining a Friendship

While McAdams and Gosling’s romantic flame fizzled out, reports suggest they remained amicable post-breakup.  This friendly dynamic, however, is said to have shifted when Mendes entered the picture.

 

A Shadow of Jealousy? Unconfirmed Rumors of Tension

Unverified reports claim that Mendes is allegedly uncomfortable with McAdams being around Gosling.  Unnamed sources allege that Mendes discourages any interaction between the former co-stars, fearing it might upset her. This has reportedly limited Gosling’s ability to maintain a casual friendship with McAdams.

The validity of these claims remains shrouded in mystery.  Mendes and Gosling are known for their privacy, making it difficult to separate truth from speculation.

 

 

Beyond the Rumors: The Power of “The Notebook” Endures

While the rumors of off-screen tension add another chapter to the “The Notebook” narrative, the film’s enduring power lies in its timeless portrayal of love and loss. Whether Gosling and McAdams remained friends or not doesn’t diminish the on-screen magic they created. The film’s ability to resonate with audiences continues, reminding us of the intensity of first love, the pain of heartbreak, and the enduring power of memories.

The Notebook’s legacy is a complex one, weaving together a captivating on-screen love story, rumored off-screen tension, and a reminder of the film’s lasting impact on pop culture.

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From Mansion to Moat: Drake’s Million Dollar Home Gets Soaked

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Toronto residents woke up to a soggy Wednesday morning after the city was pummeled by record-breaking rainfall on Tuesday. The downpour caused widespread flooding across the city, and even the opulent mansion of rap superstar Drake wasn’t spared.

 

Drake’s “Embassy” Flooded

Drake shared a video on his Instagram story showing the extent of the water damage at his Toronto mansion, nicknamed “The Embassy.” The sprawling 50,000-square-foot estate boasts an NBA-regulation basketball court and an art-deco theme, but on Tuesday, it was battling ankle-deep murky water flooding its halls.

The video shows Drake himself, clad in shorts and holding a broom, wading through the water. Someone else can be seen desperately trying to hold a large glass door shut as water surges in, presumably from a flooded patio or balcony.  Drake captioned the video with a touch of humor: “This better be espresso martini.”

The extent of the damage to the mansion remains unclear at this time.

 

Historic Rainfall Causes Citywide Flooding

The flooding at Drake’s mansion was just one symptom of the unprecedented rainfall that lashed Toronto on Tuesday. The city saw over 100 millimeters of rain in a single day, easily surpassing the average rainfall for the entire month of July (71.6 mm). This deluge makes it the fifth-wettest day ever recorded in Toronto’s history.

The heavy downpour overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems, leading to widespread flooding across neighborhoods. Emergency services were inundated with over 700 calls reporting flooded basements.  A major artery, the Don Valley Parkway, became an impassable waterway, with cars submerged almost entirely and some drivers forced to wait for rescue on the roofs of their vehicles.

 

Toronto Cleans Up After the Storm

As of Wednesday morning, the city is in cleanup mode.  Emergency crews are working to clear debris and assess the damage caused by the floods.  The extent of the financial losses incurred by homeowners and businesses is still being determined.

While Drake’s mansion may have gotten an unwelcome soaking, the true story of this weather event lies in the impact it had on ordinary citizens across Toronto. The city is now focused on recovery efforts and ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.

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