Bradley Johnson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Bradley Johnson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

6 Hallmark Products Greeted With Controversy

Bradley Johnson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Bradley Johnson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Founded in 1910, the Hallmark greeting card company—named after the “hallmark” term used by goldsmiths to indicate quality, and after the Hall family that started it—has been synonymous with warm wishes and platitudes for every conceivable occasion.

Unfortunately, some of their sentiments have not been as carefully thought out as others. Take a look at a few instances where Hallmark missed the mark entirely.


As a cardboard titan in the greeting-card industry, it’s not unusual for Hallmark to acquire smaller companies. (Or large ones: They own Crayola.) In 1998, Hallmark purchased the British-based Creative Publishing and took over their library of well-wishing birthday acknowledgements. Lost in the shuffle was a card Creative designed intended for pre-adolescent girls that read:

“You’re 13 today! If you had a rich boyfriend he’d give you diamonds and rubies. Well maybe next year you will—when you’ve bigger boobies!”

According to Fox 31 in Denver, a customer in the UK plucked the card off a shelf in 2012 and Tweeted its contents out. A “surprised and horrified” Hallmark offered an apology and recalled the remaining inventory.


Hallmark founder Joyce Clyde Hall had ambitions beyond holiday greetings: He felt his millions of mass-produced cards would be an effective way of introducing fine art to Americans. In 1959, Hallmark agreed to pay expressionist artist Salvador Dali $15,000 to produce 10 paintings they could use on Christmas cards. After Dali had finished, Hallmark believed only two would be of interest to the public at large: Dali’s abstract renditions of the Nativity and the Madonna. Both were released in 1960—and both caused significant public outcry for using the Christmas season to market weirdly ethereal illustrations of religious imagery. Hallmark recalled most of the cards; those that remained in circulation became collector’s items.



A Walgreen’s customer in Northridge, California was looking for Hanukkah gift paper in late 2014 when she spotted something unusual: Hallmark wrap that appeared to be decorated with swastikas. According to CNN, the woman alerted Walgreen’s, who contacted Hallmark. The company offered a public apology and said the pattern was taken from the company’s reference material archive and was intended to evoke an old Chinese vase design. “It was an oversight on our part to not notice the intersecting lines that could be seen as a swastika pattern,” Hallmark spokesperson Julie Elliott told the Kansas City Star.



Hallmark ran into some angry mothers in 1988 after issuing college graduation cards that appeared to conclude a finished education is best topped off by getting heavily intoxicated. A California chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) argued the company was promoting irresponsible behavior by marketing cards depicting a refrigerator full of beer and an egg that read:

“Don’t go to graduation without a good breakfast first.”

Hallmark pulled the cards and declared it would stop mentioning alcohol when designing graduation greetings. Some retail outlets took the cards down voluntarily.



Hallmark has cut out a sizable slice of market share in a variety of holiday goods, including ornaments. In 2013, the company offered an (intentionally) ugly Christmas sweater tree decoration that was emblazoned with the phrase “Don we now our fun apparel.” The wording substituted “fun” for “gay” as the line originally appears in “Deck the Halls.” According to CNN, Hallmark argued the change was due to the fact “gay” had “multiple meanings” today versus when the song was written in the 1800s. After the company was accused of fearing the word “gay,” it issued an apology via Twitter.


What could be more harmless than a Hallmark-issued poster of Charlie Brown’s adorable dog, Snoopy? Lots of things: In 1983, Hallmark endured criticism for a wall decoration that featured Charles Schulz’s creation indicating he’d much rather “party” than “study.” The item was customizable, with area high schools able to order copies with their name printed as part of Snoopy’s thought balloon. School boards and parent-teacher associations complained the artwork was dismissive of education. Schulz told the Associated Press that he didn’t recall ever seeing the concept for approval.

Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
How Frozen Peas Made Orson Welles Lose It
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)

Orson Welles would have turned 103 years old today. While the talented actor/director/writer leaves behind a staggering body of work—including Citizen Kane, long regarded as the best film of all time—the YouTube generation may know him best for what happened when a couple of voiceover directors decided to challenge him while recording an ad for Findus frozen foods in 1970.

The tempestuous Welles is having none of it. You’d do yourself a favor to listen to the whole thing, but here are some choice excerpts.

After he was asked for one more take from the audio engineer:

"Look, I’m not used to having more than one person in there. One more word out of you and you go! Is that clear? I take directions from one person, under protest … Who the hell are you, anyway?"

After it was explained to him that the second take was requested because of a “slight gonk”:

"What is a 'gonk'? Do you mind telling me what that is?"

After the director asks him to emphasize the “in” while saying “In July”:

"Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it. … That's just stupid. 'In July?' I'd love to know how you emphasize 'in' in 'in July.' Impossible! Meaningless!"

When the session moved from frozen peas to ads for fish fingers and beef burgers, the now-sheepish directors attempt to stammer out some instructions. Welles's reply:

"You are such pests! ... In your depths of your ignorance, what is it you want?"

Why would the legendary director agree to shill for a frozen food company in the first place? According to author Josh Karp, whose book Orson Welles’s Last Movie chronicles the director’s odyssey to make a “comeback” film in the 1970s, Welles acknowledged the ad spots were mercenary in nature: He could demand upwards of $15,000 a day for sessions, which he could use, in part, to fund his feature projects.

“Why he dressed down the man, I can't say for sure,” Karp says. “But I know that he was a perfectionist and didn't suffer fools, in some cases to the extreme. He used to take a great interest in the ads he made, even when they weren't of his creation.”

The Findus session was leaked decades ago, popping up on radio and in private collections before hitting YouTube. Voiceover actor Maurice LaMarche, who voiced the erudite Brain in Pinky and the Brain, based the character on Welles and would recite his rant whenever he got the chance.

Welles died in 1985 at the age of 70 from a heart attack, his last film unfinished. While some saw the pea endorsement as beneath his formidable talents, he was actually ahead of the curve: By the 1980s, many A-list stars were supplementing their income with advertising or voiceover work.

“He was a brilliant, funny guy,” Karp says. “There's a good chance he'd think the pea commercial was hilarious.” If not, he’d obviously have no problem saying as much.

How Google Chrome’s New Built-In Ad Blocker Will Change Your Browsing Experience

If you can’t stand web ads that auto-play sound and pop up in front of what you’re trying to read, you have two options: Install an ad blocker on your browser or avoid the internet all together. Starting Thursday, February 15, Google Chrome is offering another tool to help you avoid the most annoying ads on the web, Tech Crunch reports. Here’s what Google Chrome users should expect from the new feature.

Chrome’s ad filtering has been in development for about a year, but the details of how it will work were only recently made public. “While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we've increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive,” Google wrote in a blog post. “As we announced last June, Chrome will tackle this issue by removing ads from sites that do not follow the Better Ads Standards.

That means the new feature won’t block all ads from publishers or even block most of them. Instead, it will specifically target ads that violate the Better Ad Standards that the Coalition for Better Ads recommends based on consumer data. On desktop, this includes auto-play videos with sound, sticky banners that follow you as you scroll, pop-ups, and prestitial ads that make you wait for a countdown to access the site. Mobile Chrome users will be spared these same types of ads as well as flashing animations, ads that take up more than 30 percent of the screen, and ads the fill the whole screen as you scroll past them.

These criteria still leave room for plenty of ads to show up online—the total amount of media blocked by the feature won’t even amount to 1 percent of all ads. So if web browsers are looking for an even more ad-free experience, they should use Chrome’s ad filter as a supplement to one of the many third-party ad blockers out there.

And if accessing content without navigating a digital obstacle course first doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry: On sites where ads are blocked, Google Chrome will show a notification that lets you disable the feature.

[h/t Tech Crunch]


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