Motel 6, Home Depot Fire Dallas Ad Agency Over Founder's Racially Insensitive Remarks

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Carrollton-based Motel 6 and The Home Depot severed their long-running ties with Dallas-based advertising agency, The Richards Group, over remarks made by the agency’s founder.

The racially insensitive comments made by founder Stan Richards happened during an internal pitch meeting last week involving a proposed advertising campaign for Motel 6.

The 88-year-old founder admitted to using the words “It’s too Black” when reacting to the proposal.

In a statement to NBC 5, Stan Richards writes: “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.” 

A spokesperson for Motel 6 said no employees of the hotel chain were in the meeting and the comments were brought to their attention by The Richards Group on Monday. The company then terminated their contract with its long-running ad agency.

Motel 6 sent this statement to NBC 5: “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."

Following news of Motel 6 dropping their business, The Home Depot also announced it is terminating its contract with The Richards Group.

A spokesperson for The Home Depot released this statement to NBC 5: "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." 

Dr. Jacque Lambiase is a professor of strategic communications at TCU and is not surprised big companies are now dropping their accounts.

"Clients like this are doing some extra scrutiny of the agency that they are working with," said Lambiase. "Especially with an icon like Stan Richards, when someone like that says something, the impact is much bigger."

Founded by Stan Richards, The Richards Group grew from a local design firm into a powerhouse advertising agency for big national brands like Dodge Ram, Charles Schwab, Hobby Lobby, The Salvation Army and more.

Richards named long-time employee Glenn Dady as his successor last year.

Dady, principal and creative director of The Richards Group, released this statement: “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. 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. 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.” 

Wednesday night, the media relations department for Cracker Barrel confirmed to NBC 5 that it was considering The Richards Group for their advertising business, but have now removed the company from consideration, saying "The Richards Group was one of several agencies competing for our advertising business. Upon learning of this incident, we immediately pulled The Richards Group from our agency review and they are no longer being considered for the Cracker Barrel account."

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