The biggest agency implosion of 2020
It was arguably the swiftest downfall of an agency in history.
In the space of a week, The Richards Group lost the bulk of its client roster after it came to light that its founder, Stan Richards, made a racist remark in an internal meeting. In a now-legendary tale, Richards rejected an ad proposal for then-client Motel 6 on the grounds that it was "too Black" and threatened to alienate the chain's "significant white supremacist constituents."
In short order, Motel 6—which had already been reviewing its account—dismissed the agency and other clients were quick to follow. The following day Home Depot put it account up for grabs, followed by Keurig Dr Pepper, Orkin, Advanced Auto Parts, H.E.B., Shiner Beer and more, while Cracker Barrel dropped The Richards Group from its review.
To stop the bleeding, Stan Richards, until then a revered figure who founded the agency 44 years earlier and still turned up to work every day at age 88, stepped down on Oct. 15, a week after the remark was made.
The entire incident brought into focus the unusual culture of the agency, which clocked employees in and insisted they be at their desks by 8:30 a.m., and appeared to have separate rules for male and female staffers. But it also raised questions about whether an agency can be too closely allied to a founder. The industry is now watching to see how it can recover.