AdAge reports that Stan Richards is leaving the agency he founded after, during an internal ad review, he stated that an ad concept for client Motel 6 was "too Black" and that it risked alienating the chain's "white supremacist constituents." “If this was a publicly held company, I’d be fired for the comments I made. We’re not public, so I am firing myself,” Stan Richards said in a statement.
AdAge reports that Glenn Dady, a creative director for The Richards Group, "will assume full responsibility for all agency operations, creative oversight and new business efforts for the agency," effective immediately.
The remarks have cost The Richards Group some big clients this week. First Motel 6 and The Home Deport, joined later by Keurig Dr Pepper, Orkin, H.E.B. and Advance Auto Parts.
The motel’s agency of record for 34 years was holding a remote internal meeting attended by about 40 people to review an idea for an ad campaign that celebrated Black artists, according to a report from Ad Age, which cited someone who was on the call.
Motel 6 said in a statement, "We are outraged by the statements made about Motel 6 and our customers by a member of The Richards Group during one of its internal meetings. The comments were not only completely inaccurate, they are also in direct opposition of our values and beliefs as an organization. Upon learning of these comments, we terminated our relationship with The Richards Group, effective immediately. We are a company who embraces diversity of all forms and have a zero tolerance policy for hateful comments of any kind, whether that be within our organization, at third party vendors or at our properties. We will continue to work every day to ensure every one of our guests and employees is treated with the utmost respect."
After making the remarks during the Oct. 8 call, several agency employees challenged Stan Richards, who abruptly left the call, saying he had another meeting to attend, Ad Age says.
“News of the remark tore through the agency, electrifying employees who called for action,” Ad Age’s Judann Pollack and Lindsay Rittenhouse said in the article. Agency brass, including Richards' successor Glenn Dady, Principal and Creative Director, got involved, spurring Stan Richards to issue an apology later in the day to some of those on the call. With pressure mounting, Stan Richards issued a second apology the next day, this time to the entire 750-person agency via Zoom. But the second apology was described as “half-assed” and “tone deaf” by agency staffers on the Zoom call.
When Ad Age asked the agency to comment, it released a statement from Stan Richards that read: “Last week, we were reviewing creative for what was to be a multicultural campaign for one of our clients. Two of our creatives, both white, presented a direction I thought was not multiculturally inclusive enough. I misspoke and commented using words I greatly regret, including three I never should have said: ‘It’s too black.’ To be clear, though, I have never used racial slurs about any ethnic group nor tolerated it from anyone around me. Those words were said innocently, but they were hurtful to members of our staff. I have apologized for that, as I should have. Having spent much of my adult life fighting prejudice, I should have known better.”
After Ad Age broke the Motel 6 story Tuesday evening, The Home Depot followed suit, revealing that it is ending its relationship with The Richards Group, which has been its agency for 25 years. “We do not tolerate discrimination in any form, so we were shocked and saddened when we learned of this incident. We have immediately begun the process of finding a new advertising agency,” a Home Depot spokeswoman said in a statement.
The home improvement retailer was radio’s top advertiser in 2019 and spent $1.1 billion on advertising for the year ended Feb. 2020, a 3% increase over the prior year, according to Ad Age’s Datacenter, which ranks the chain as the U.S.’ 43rd largest advertiser.
Motel 6 has made radio a key part of it media mix over the years with its signature Tom Bodett-voiced ads sporting the famous tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for ya.” Radio was the only medium that was used for these ads for many years. The lodging chain and The Richards Group won numerous awards for the ads, including the Best Creative Radio Spot – General Market, produced by an agency production company or advertiser, for their Motel 6 Feet Apart spot at the 2020 Radio Mercury Awards held last week.
Ad Age reported Thursday night that Richards Group is committing to six initiatives to "ensure diversity, equity and inclusion within the agency." They include: Adding a new post dedicated to "influence agency decisions regarding diversity equity and inclusion"; committing to "specific representation across all disciplines and leadership; "auditing current policies to make sure they are equitable"; implement place-bias training; review all work to ensure it is "culturally relevant" and "commit to tracking its progress."