Stan Richards, who founded The Richards Group in Dallas 44 years ago, is leaving the agency amid a cloud of controversy and several major client departures.
Glenn Dady, who joined The Richards Group in 1980, will assume full responsibility for all agency operations, according to an announcement The Richards Group sent to Adweek tonight. Dady, Principal and Creative Director at The Richards Group, succeeded Richards in December.
Richards’ departure comes just days after longtime client Motel 6 fired the agency based on remarks he recently made. During an internal meeting at the agency last week, Richards described a campaign concept for the hotel chain as “too black”. A person familiar with the matter said Richards also implied that some of Motel 6’s customers were white supremacists.
According to Richards, when he labeled a Motel 6 campaign concept “too black” he wanted to suggest that it should include other ethnic groups outside of African Americans. But the comment reportedly angered staff, who felt the agency’s leadership was sluggish to spark a sincere apology from Richards.
“If this were a public company, I would be fired for my comments. But we’re not public, so I’m firing myself, “Richards said in a written statement today. “Above all, our employees deserve this. I made a mistake. The biggest mistake of my life. One that I can never adequately explain or take back. All I can say is that I was wrong. “
Motel 6 quickly ended its relationship with the agency, and others – including Home Depot, Salvation Army, and Texan grocery chain HEB – have since followed suit.
Richards has apologized for calling the campaign concept “too black” but has not commented on the reported white supremacy statement. His hasty exit marks the end of what has been a successful run for the 88-year-old founder, who has long been committed to keeping his eponymous store independent. He has often said, also to Adweek in 2006, that he has never seen an agency get “better” after being taken over by a holding company.
According to The Richards Group, the agency has been owned by Richards since its inception. It is unclear whether this will change in light of events.
As part of his exit, the agency announced its plans to implement “six key initiatives” related to DEI. These include: creating a new position to influence agency decisions about diversity, equity and inclusion; formal commitment to specific representation in all disciplines and leadership positions; Review current policies to ensure that they apply to all employees; Conducting bias training for all employees; Review all current work to ensure it is culturally relevant; and commit to tracking progress.
Since its inception in 1976, the Richards Group is perhaps best known for its ability to have longstanding relationships. Up to this week, Motel 6 had been a customer for around 35 years. The agency is responsible for the chain’s slogan “We’ll leave the lights on for you”, made famous by radio personality Tom Bodett.
The store worked for Chick-fil-A for more than 20 years, creating its cow mascots and the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign. The agency lost the account to McCann New York in 2016. Home Depot’s relationship with the agency also spanned decades, while the Salvation Army was a customer for 15 years.
Richards himself received many awards along the way. In 2017 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. In 2014 the University of Texas named their advertising school after him.