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SAF asks companies, publications to reconsider negative Valentine’s Day ads

The world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands and a startup company in the custom framing industry apologized to the floral industry after the Society of American Florists pointed out that their email promotions disparaged flowers.

“We love flowers and chocolate, too, and our intention was to broaden the Valentine’s Day gift consideration set also to travel,” wrote Kristi Gole, senior director of customer strategy and insights at the Global Hotel Alliance, in an email to SAF. “We apologize to those we may have offended.”

negative1-1 GHA sent an email to its Discovery loyalty program members with the subject line “What’s better than flowers and chocolate?” to promote romantic getaways at Omni Hotels & Resorts.

That isn’t the only company response SAF has received this Valentine’s season.

“We LOVE flowers,” wrote Susan Tynan, founder and chief executive officer of Framebridge in an email to SAF. The company promoted custom framed artwork and photos in an email with the subject line: “Not too late to not send flowers.”

Tynan added, “We’ll be sure to promote them in the future. Our tongue-in-cheek advertising was not meant to offend — we thought it was clearly a joke because flowers are always a great gift. We know flowers win the day on Valentine’s and every day in between.”

As the voice of the floral industry, SAF responds to ads and others that disparage florists and flowers or cast floral gifts in a negative light.

“The main point of SAF’s response is to bring attention to the disparaging floral statements and ask advertisers to promote products on their own merits,” said Jenny Scala, SAF’s director of marketing and communications. “Success comes when the advertiser ceases running that particular promotion or at least takes note not to go that route in the future.”

Sometimes, companies don’t agree with us, Scala said.

SAF reached out to retailer Leaf & Clay to point out the negativity in the subject line of its recent email promotion: “?? Succulents are better than roses :)?? ”

Nick Sandford, president of Leaf & Clay, wrote back: “We appreciate your comments, but Leaf & Clay will continue to market to its customer base in the manner and tone it sees fit. The statement ‘succulents are better than roses :)’ was used in the context of promoting our products against the largest direct competitor in the market for Valentine’s Day business — flowers, namely roses. I’m sorry, but it’s a bit silly that someone could possibly be offended by what was obviously a very tongue in cheek subject line. Leaf & Clay proudly wholesales to 100’s of talented florists who use our products to create beautiful arrangements of all kinds. Again, thank you for your feedback, but we stand by our choice of language. “

SAF also reached out to these companies:

Chick-fil-A posted a blog that reads: “Anyone can give a dozen red roses for Valentine’s Day. Candy hearts? So last year. If you’re looking for something unique for that special someone in your life, swing by a participating Chick-fil-A …” WUSA 9, a CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., promoted the Chick-fil-A offering with a Facebook post that reads: “Candy hearts and flowers are out, chicken is in.”

Cooking Light and My Recipes posted the article: “Who Needs Flowers When You Can Have a PICKLE BOUQUET?!

Articles on, and promoting the Harry & David Donut Bouquet include headlines and stories with the following verbiage: “You Can Buy a Donut Bouquet for Valentine’s Day, So It’s Officially Time to Ditch Flowers Forever”; and “Flowers on Valentine’s Day are… kinda lame. Disagree with me all you want, but the V-Day bouquet is just kind of overdone, OK!?”

Elements Massage radio commercials say flowers are cliché and unoriginal.

Flaviar, a craft and premium spirits spirits enthusiasts club, emailed: “Screw flowers — give ‘em membership.”

Hudson Jewelers in Edwardsville, IL, posted a video on Facebook showing wilted roses alongside content that read, “The gift that never fades.”

Jared The Galleria of Jewelry radio commercials say flowers don’t last.

Lane Bryant emailed: “Keep the roses. We want BOGO 50 percent off ALL bras.”

Mesa Garage Doors, America’s largest garage door installation company, airs radio commercials that say buy garage doors instead of flowers that only last a week.

Miami Herald ran an article headlined, “Roses are for suckers. Here’s how to send croquetas for a truly Miami Valentine’s Day.” The story goes on to read: “Roses are boring.”

Microsoft emailed: “These gifts last longer than flowers.”

Perfectly Posh, a seller of skin-care products, posted the following on Facebook: “Flowers Die / Chocolates Melt” and “Why buy Posh for Valentine’s Day? Roses look and smell great for four days and ‘decent’ for about a week before being thrown away.”

Seat Geek emailed: “Roses Out: Tickets: In.”

Southwest Vacations emailed: “Vacations are better than roses.”

USA Today ran “From bacon and beef jerky to breadsticks and pickles: Valentine’s Day bouquets go wacky.” It begins with: “Forget traditional flowers.”

Whole Foods Market in-store sign reads: “You can say it with flowers, but cake just tastes better.”

Florists convince companies to rethink negative flower ads

Some florists took matters into their own hands when they saw negative flower ads — and responded directly to companies themselves. “Your feedback as a customer really does mean something to advertisers,” Scala said. 

When Robert Bryant, AAF, AIFD, of Flowers By Robert Taylor in West Covina, CA, saw a Facebook post that read, “Get Tickets instead of Last Minute Flowers for Valentine’s Day,” he acted fast. He reached out to the owner of the independent ticket broker — who happens to be a customer. “’I know you didn’t create the ad’,” Bryant said to the ticket broker, “I’m just asking that you promote your services on their own merits.”

Soon after, TicketGiant posted not one, but two flower-friendly messages on Facebook. The first read: “After buying her Roses don’t forget to add the Concert tickets for Valentine’s Day.” In the second post, TicketGiant shared a Flowers by Robert Taylor Valentine’s Day post with the message: “My florist since 1983.”

Kate Delaney, AAF, of Matlack Florist Inc. in West Chester, PA, reached out to Panda Planner, a company that produces a series of planners to improve productivity. She received an email promotion from the company with the subject line “Flowers are overrated — Give a V-Day gift that has meaning.”

“I sent an email letting them know I was a customer, a florist, and a member of SAF,” Delaney said. “I used the guidelines SAF has online, and also pointed them to the studies on flowers’ effect on stress, happiness and productivity.  I got a response that evening from the customer care team that my feedback would be shared with marketing.”

The next morning, the company sent a promo with a new subject line: “Love Equals a Panda Planner in your Hand.”

Delaney said, “I’m unsure if this was a pre-planned email or if the marketing department ever did receive my feedback, but I was happy to see a positive subject line.”

Longtime floral designer and educator J Schwanke, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, reached out to Bombas, a popular sock company. It had emailed: “Forget Flowers. Give Socks. Flowers are out… Comfy socks are in.”

Schwanke received a heartfelt and fast apology from the company.

“I want to apologize profusely and let you know it was not our intent to disparage your job or work, which we recognize as something truly important and necessary to people’s well-being and vital to society at large,” wrote Sam Grittner, a member of the “Happiness Team” at Bombas. “The ad was supposed to be light-hearted, but we clearly dropped the ball. As incredible as our socks are, we know that they never could replace flowers in any capacity.”

“We have looped in our creative and marketing teams and will be doing our absolute best to ensure that this type of advertisement is something we steer clear of going forward,” he said. “The biggest lesson we can learn from this is that we don’t have to put anyone or anything else down in order to push ourselves up. The irony of a florist helping us learn how to grow isn’t lost on us. It is in fact, deeply appreciated.”

For his part, Schwanke was more than satisfied with the response, which also included some humor. (“As much as we love our products, no one has ever said, ‘Make sure to take time and smell the rose-colored socks,’” Grittner teased.)

“It’s a win-win,” Schwanke said of the “kind and heartfelt” response. “I love their socks, and now I love them more.”

Spot a harmful ad or article about flowers? Forward them to


Mary Westbrook is editor in chief of Floral Management.