Motel 6 Fires The Richards Group After Agency Founder Calls Ad Concept ‘Too Black’

Home Depot is also ending its relationship following Stan Richards’ remarks

Motel 6 has quickly ended its longtime relationship with The Richards Group. The Richards Group/Motel 6

Motel 6, a longtime client of The Richards Group, has abruptly ended its relationship with the Dallas-based independent agency. The firing comes days after the agency’s 88-year-old founder, Stan Richards, referred to a campaign idea for the brand as “too Black” during an internal meeting that the client did not participate in.

Richards also insinuated that some of Motel 6’s customers are white supremacists, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In a statement to Adweek, Motel 6 said it is “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.”

A spokesperson for Motel 6 said the brand was contacted about the incident on Monday and terminated its partnership with the agency shortly afterward.

“We are a company who embraces diversity of all forms and has a zero tolerance policy for hateful comments of any kind, whether that be within our organization, at third party vendors or at our properties,” the statement continued. “We will continue to work every day to ensure every one of our guests and employees is treated with the utmost respect.”

Home Depot has also ended its partnership with The Richards Group. A spokesperson said in a statement that the company does 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.” 

Richards, who founded the agency 44 years ago and named his successor last year, sent a statement to Adweek regarding his remarks. However, he did not mention the white supremacy comment.

“Last week, we were reviewing creative for what was to be a multicultural campaign for one of our clients,” he said. “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.”

He continued by stating that “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.” 

Glenn Dady, who was named Richards’ successor in December, sent a separate statement. He serves as principal and creative director of the agency.

“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,” he said. “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. As the person now responsible for all the operations of The Richards Group going forward, I commit to doing everything in my power to stay focused on that goal.”

Additionally, he said the agency understands and regrets “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.”

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.
@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.