Bad news travels fast, and by now, you’ve probably heard about the fire storm raging at the Dallas-based Richards Group.
The shop just lost two decades-old clients — Motel 6 and Home Depot — after the founder, Stan Richards, who is 88 and still very active at the agency, uttered racist comments at a creative pitch meeting regarding a possible Motel 6 ad.
The basic premise was to celebrate Black artists in the ad, according to Adage.com, which first reported the debacle. It also reported that Cracker Barrel has cut ties and others are reconsidering their relationship with the agency.
Richards reportedly said the creative concept was “too Black,” and would offend Motel 6’s “significant White supremacist constituents.”
What the hell, Stan? Has the agency conducted research examining the lodging preferences of traveling White supremacists?
There’s no good news here. But let’s be honest, the kind of remarks that Richards made at the meeting last week would not have raised an eyebrow at many agencies back in 1976, when Richards formed his. The "Mad Men" days, when both racism and sexism were more overtly ingrained in the fabric of society.
I’m not saying they aren’t still issues today. Obviously, they are.
But back then, at a lot of shops, if someone leading a creative brainstorming session had made a similar remark, I believe the general response would have been something like, “OK, what’s the next idea?”
So on one level, at least, the fact the industry seems to be up in arms over Richards’ remarks is a sign of progress. Granted, that’s a pretty low bar. I hope and believe the progress has been much greater than a comment about an ad campaign being “too black” being unacceptable.
I hope there’s an outcome here that doesn’t involve The Richards Group going out of business. The pandemic has already shoved way too many good people in this business to the sidelines, at least temporarily.
Given the reported painful hue and cry coming from the Richards Group’s rank and file over the contretemps, it seems there are a lot of hardworking and dedicated people at the agency who were horrified by Richards’ remarks, not just because they made the agency look bad, but because they were racist and thus by definition, wrong.
Maybe Stan will do the right thing and step down and give the agency a chance to survive.