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The Richards Group

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Dallas-based Richards Group is almost certainly the world's biggest single-owner ad agency. Although founder Stan Richards controls 100% of the equity of the shop, it has for many years operated an unconventional open-door policy in which there are no departmental divisions among staff and no one (except the CFO) has a private office. In 2007 it overtook Doner to become America's largest independent agency by revenues, and maintained that position until 2016 (when it was finally overtaken by Wieden & Kennedy). Despite the widespread consolidation within the industry, the agency says it is definitely not for sale, "not now, not ever".

Clients

Click here for a Richards client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Competitors

see here for ranking of Leading US Agencies

Brand & Activities

"We are not for sale. Not now. Not ever." It doesn't get clearer than that, taken from the agency's credentials pack. And if even that wasn't plain enough Stan Richards has arranged for his 100% equity in the company to be donated to a non-profit foundation after his eventual departure. In the mean time the agency operates a profit-share scheme for all employees, and is renowned for its open-door policy. No one has their own office except the CFO, and there are no departmental divisions, with all traditional agency roles mixed up alongside one another. The agency claims this maximises the free flow of ideas and creativity. In perhaps the most unorthodox development to-date, in 2011 the agency even converted four walk-in closets into nap rooms for employees.

Another rule that breaks with the industry standard is that Richards traditionally declines to defend reviews of client accounts. Clients either choose to stay or choose to go, and the agency prefers not to get involved in competition for the business. Advertising Age estimated revenues of $190m for 2015. Claimed billings were $1.36bn. The agency manages a substantial portfolio containing both major national accounts and a large collection of local Texas clients.

Richards lost the flagship Hyundai account in 2007, and with it several senior staff. However, Richards regained a leading automotive account with the capture of Chrysler's Ram Trucks account in 2009. Its "God Made A Farmer" spot for Ram, aired in Super Bowl 2013, was widely regarded as one of the finest ads broadcast during the game, and the agency has steadily expanded its influence over what is now FiatChrysler, with project work across all its various auto brands. The Home Depot is another key account, but Chick-Fil-A, a client for more than 20 years - and for whom the agency produced the very popular ad series featuring cows encouraging fast food customers to "Eat Mor Chikin" - departed in 2016. Another long-running and much loved campaign for Fruit Of The Loom, in which a group of musicians dressed as fruit serenaded the joys of underwear, ended in 2012 when the account moved away.

The agency has spun off a number of its specialist operations into separate businesses. These include integrated PR agency Richards Partners (formerly Richards/Gravelle), promotional marketer Latitude, interactive agency Click Here, urban marketer Shift, Hispanic unit Richards/Lerma and naming unit Flying Start. In 2006, the agency acquired small Houston independent Rives Carlberg, now renamed Richards Carlberg.

In 2015, the agency moved into a gleaming new office building in Dallas, commissioned and wholly owned by agency founder Stan Richards.

Background

Stan Richards arrived in Dallas, Texas in 1953 on his way cross-country from New York to a job in Los Angeles. He took the decision to stay for a while, and make a living with some freelance art direction jobs, but finally ended up as a fulltime resident. During the 1960s, he began to recruit other freelancers, grouping the team into an ad hoc creative shop who took on work contracted out by other agencies. By the mid-1970s, Richards was a thriving business, but its only clients were other agencies. In 1976, Stan Richards was approached direct by Dallas-based Mercantile Bank to take its account. After a lot of consideration, Richards agreed to turn his company into a fully-fledged advertising agency, and promptly found himself dropped by his roster of agency clients who now viewed him as a competitor.

However the powerful campaign for Mercantile won the agency awards and a lot more work. In 1986, the agency was approached by local motel chain Motel 6. After advising the chain to start by upgrading its furnishings, Richards created a hugely successful campaign, later ranked by Advertising Age as one of the 100 best of the century. Tag-line "We'll leave the light on for you" became a household slogan in the US.

The group has a reputation as one of the US's most creative ad agencies, and has notched up a string of top awards since the 1980s. In 2001 the group spun out two further satellites, specialist Hispanic agency Grupo Gallegos and strategic branding shop Spherical. Richards scored a huge creative coup in 2002 when the agency prised away the Hyundai Motors account from Bates Worldwide, who had held the business for more than a decade. However it lost the business again in 2007.

Last full revision 23rd November 2016

* Archive page for historical reference only. This profile is no longer being actively updated. See active page here *


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