A week and a day have passed since Stan Richards opted to step down after the firestorm of controversy surrounding his comments in an internal creative review for Motel 6. Comments that were quickly passed along to the client, who then fired the agency.
What I’ve heard through the grapevine since is the activist role that Adweek may have played in this case. The word on the street is Adweek’s reporters called all of The Richards Group’s clients to ask if they also intended to resign the account.
Would the agency have lost as many clients as it did, had the trade mag not called? Were the reporters just doing their job, or is there more at work here?
Rodrigo Maycotte, a former TRG employee and Co-Founder and Partner at Fortunato, weighed in on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Man, it’s hard not to think @adweek has a vendetta with TRG. Lots of falsehoods and half truths in here, you can clearly see the intentionality.
— rodrigo maycotte (@rodrigomaycotte) October 22, 2020
Maycotte also recalled his relationship with Richards, the man.
Last week when this happened, one of my first questions was what other evidence is there that Stan Richards is racist? Because if he is racist, there will be evidence strew about the place, and by ‘place’ I mean the city of Dallas and the state of Texas. Thousands of people have worked for Stan. Where’s the evidence that he’s a buffoon, out of touch, or just plain mean?
Is Adweek Doing Its Job, Or Doing Something Else?
Adweek’s follow up article, mentioned on Twitter by Maycotte, isn’t exactly a hit piece. It fails to hit hard enough to qualify.
The article drones on about Stan’s obsession with timeliness and order. I mean can you imagine a boss that requires you to be at work by 8:30 in the morning? Right, so can everyone who works.
Adweek also argues that Stan shamed people at the annual holiday party for being late on their timesheets. Man, this guy sounds difficult to work for and be around. He asks that people show up at work on time and he wants to know what they do all day for his clients. The pressure could be too much for the softer Adlings to take.
Meanwhile, real racist and sexist shit is happening all over the ad industry on a daily basis. Real people are really being hurt. Right now.
If Adweek wants to bust things wide open, then the reporters could dig into the pay inequities, which are everywhere. They could find out why women continue to accept less than their male counterparts. And ask their employers how much longer they think they can get away with it. They could find out why all the people in the agency photos on the website are under 35 (except the partners). Ask why almost all of them are white.
Where Does Accountability Come From?
I’ve been calling for accountability, industry standards and reform for years. I do so here in these digital pages all the time. If there were an ethics mandate or a licensing and testing requirement for marketing communications professionals, I would be for it. With no regulations in place, there are too few checks on bad behaviors.
When there is no official channel for grievances, what happens? Backchannels happen. Not in the hallway. Today, it all happens on the screen. These are digitally-powered places where gossip and whining reign. The larger culture embraced this passive-aggressive behavior and now it’s the norm.
There is a person or small group of people in Dallas who were offended by Stan’s remarks when they happened during a virtual meeting. In a healthy culture, you address the problem head-on. You go to Stan and tell him how upset you are over the words he used. You work it out like adults. But that didn’t happen, did it?
It didn’t happen because the default human response is gossip. Also, the prevailing attitude for today’s worker is the old white man is clueless (no matter who he is). He’s THE MAN and THE MAN needs to take a seat.
People at Adweek and some at TRG most likely believe this and these beliefs fuel fires.
My analysis of digital culture’s faultlines and consequent condemnation of passive-aggressive weaklings isn’t going to remedy much either. We’re drowning in noise from the mainstream media, and from our inputs in social media and on Apps like Slack and Discord. The noise is loud and it is constant. It’s hard to think with this level of interruption and it’s even harder to truly hear what others have to say.
PREVIOUSLY ON ADPULP: Stan Richards Said Dumb Things, Now His Agency Is Reeling and Ad Chatter, Episode 7: The Motel 6 Incident