6 things we can learn from the Stan Richards affair

Stan Richards

Stan Richards is a force of nature. Through talent and willpower, Sir Stan built the largest independent agency in the history of American advertising. He may have been the most prolific account-winner in the annals of the agency world. Even in our competitive industry, it’s saddening to see such a legend topple off the shelf.

Through a twist of fate, I only met him once. It was 2005 and I was running new business at BBDO Atlanta. We were pitching Capital One’s first brick and mortar bank, the old Hibernia Bank in New Orleans. Mr. Richards and his band of brothers were walking out of the conference room and our team was walking in. We won the business. We went zone at halftime and TRG’s shooters couldn’t buy a basket.

As a disclaimer, I’ve done business with hundreds of agencies, but never The Richards Group. I always considered the agency a source company, since they were never a client company. That did not impact my admiration for the man, the agency and his employees. I was, in fact, surprised to learn how many of his people were inclined to listen to new opportunities.

What happened last week in Dallas was an unfortunate stain on our industry. Certainly, Sir Stan’s intentions were not devious nor racist. And there still appears to be some mystery around what really happened and what Mr. Richards actually said. No matter what, nobody won that pitch. Nobody in advertising can hide from the fact that we all suffered as a result.

Watching his mea culpa interview, I was reminded of the ad guy played by Albert Brooks in “Lost in America” pleading with the casino manager (Garry Marshall).

In life, there are no “mistakes;” just things of consequence that we can learn from. What can we learn from in The Richards Group debacle?

  • Live by the Press, Die by the Press — they love to build you up so they can tear you down. Ted Williams called them, “the Poison Pens.”
  • It only takes one bad thing to undo thousands of good things — This is standard Prometheum Law. The fall from grace is always swift and unexpected.
  • Legacies are ephemeral — Just ask Christopher Columbus.
  • Life is a cumulative game — The putt you miss on 18 has the same weight as the putt you make on hole #1.
  • It’s a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse — and that very occasional journey is what keeps us humble.
  • Don’t hang around longer than you need to — if you watched Willie Mays play centerfield in 1973, you understand.
Willie Mays retires after getting hit in the head with a fly ball in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series

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