Letters From Stan

Ground We’ve Broken Over the Years

Stan Richards

Dear Russel,

We broke ground on our new building last week. Admittedly, we’ve broken a lot of ground in the 37 years we’ve been a full-service agency. But this? This was something truly special.

Twenty people, randomly selected across all the disciplines of the company, wielding 20 shovels (newly purchased from The Home Depot, of course), unearthed grass and dirt to make room for an established culture to take root in a new space.

As each shovel made its impression on our future site, I couldn’t help but reflect on the hard work that made all this possible. And all the other ground we’ve broken over the years.

Telling Motel 6, when they came to us almost 30 years ago, not to advertise could have been one of the most foolhardy pieces of advice a young agency could ever give to a client. But once they got the product right, the work we created together broke all the rules in the hospitality industry. And that campaign is still running today.

Advising a fast-food client known for the best-tasting chicken sandwich in the country that they don’t have to show their food – and, in fact, shouldn’t – would have prompted a lesser client to thank us for our time and move on. Especially when we revealed what they should show: cows who, in enlightened self-interest, encourage people to eat more chicken. But that moment of breakthrough thinking nearly 20 years ago led to Chick-fil-A passing KFC as the number one chicken chain in America earlier this year. Remarkable, when you consider 1,700 stores (closed on Sundays) vs. 4,460 (open all week).

Asking Chrysler Group to commit to a two-minute spot for Ram Trucks in the Super Bowl that was void of babies, humor, high energy, celebrities, and special effects could have broken a relationship, never mind new ground. But, as I mentioned in my last letter to you, they showed enormous courage in saying yes. And they ended up with the most buzzed-about Super Bowl commercial in the history of the game. And empty lots where new trucks used to be.

Announcing to our entire company that we were doing away with digital in front of anyone’s job description – because it needed to become an integral way of thinking, not a special practice – was a new way of thinking in an otherwise siloed-holding-company world.

So if you were to ask me, “Stan, why do you still go to work every day when you could sell the company, easily retire, and leave the heavy lifting to the rest of the firm?” my answer is simple: There’s still so much more ground to break.