Cracker Barrel says it has dropped Richards Group from its agency review, while Keurig Dr Pepper confirmed that it will cut ties with the agency, as clients continue to distance itself from the Dallas-based agency due to racist remarks from its founder. Meanwhile, University of Texas—whose advertising and PR school carries Stan Richards' name—is holding discussions with staff, students and faculty about how to respond.
"We find these reported remarks to be strongly concerning, and we recognize the hurt and pain they have caused. We are actively seeking more information to better understand what occurred. We have been in contact with The Richards Group and plan to speak directly with Stan very soon," Dean Jay Bernhardt said in a statement to Ad Age. Bernhardt leads the university's Moody College of Communication, which houses the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations. "The university, college and school will use the information we gather internally and externally to make decisions in the coming days about how best to respond consistent with our values," Bernhardt stated.
On Tuesday, Motel 6 confirmed it had cut ties the independent agency, its partner for more than three decades, after it was informed that Stan Richards had rejected a creative idea for the client as "too Black" and that it would alienate the brand's "white supremacist constituents." Then today Home Depot dismissed Richards, a client for more than two decades, saying "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."
Keurig Dr Pepper, which has used the agency for select project work, today confirmed it would no longer work with the shop. "We stand against discriminatory acts or speech of any kind and expect everyone associated with our business to hold themselves to the same standards. As a result, we are ending our work with The Richards Group," the company said in a statement.
Another client, pest-control company Orkin, said in a statement, "Orkin has a zero tolerance policy for hate, bigotry, racisim and discriminatory actions and statements at our workplaces. This applies to all Orkin employees and extends to our agency partners and others involved in our business. We are very disappointed to hear the news, and we are currently evaluating our relationship."
Richards Group reported $201 million in revenue in 2019.
Several clients reached out to by Ad Age have remained silent so far, including Firehouse Subs, H.E.B., Duke's mayonnaise, Hobby Lobby, and Fiat Chrysler, for which Richards handles the Ram brand. The list of clients on the agency's website appears to have disappeared, but earlier today it listed Advance Auto Parts, Interstate Batteries, Direct Auto Insurance, Charles Schwab, Shiner Beer, Keurig Dr Pepper and Dish Network. PF Changs confimed to Ad Age that it had severed ties with The Richards Group in April "due to COVID related budget cuts."
The Richards Group website has a new addition, however. Its homepage now carries a message from Stan Richards' successor, Glenn Dady. “In the over four decades I have had the privilege of working at The Richards Group, the agency has never been party to nor tolerated racism in any form," it says. "We exist to endear brands to all people. Our brand has been tarnished. Like all businesses and organizations, we have a lot of work to do to further societal change. 1`, I commit to doing everything in my power to stay focused on that goal."
It continues: "We understand and regret the pain and concerns of all those who were deeply troubled by the words our founder spoke. He can’t take them back. We can only ask for forgiveness and promise to learn and be better. We ask our many friends for understanding and prayers as we move forward.”
Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jessica Wohl, Jack Neff