For Lauren Tucker, founder and CEO of strategic management consultancy Do What Matters, an analogy of using GPS to find an agency’s way forward is apt.
“You don’t use GPS to find out how you got lost,” she said.
Tucker, an honorary fellow at the University of Wisconsin, where she earned her PhD in mass communications, knows all about the idea of keeping momentum pointed in the right direction. In the past, her consultancy helped The Martin Agency and Periscope navigate flashpoints in their histories, digging in to find root issues that prevent agencies from addressing inclusion shortcomings.
The next project for Tucker and her team: The Richards Group. Last October, the agency was embroiled in controversy after founder Stan Richards remarked that a Motel 6 campaign was “too Black.” The blowback was swift, with several clients—including Motel 6, Home Depot and others—leaving the staunchly independent shop.
Shortly after the incident, Richards resigned from the agency he founded and Glenn Dady, who joined the Dallas agency in 1980, became CEO. After some time and reflection, Dady is focused not just on healing the agency but becoming a beacon of what’s possible.
“This is, by far, the biggest challenge I’ve ever experienced at the agency,” Dady said. “And now we have a chance to reinvent ourselves. Everything changed when Stan resigned and with this, I’m hoping that a year from now, our industry can look at us as a case study for getting it right. And I’m excited to work with Lauren and her team.”
Tucker is critical of the industry’s efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, pointing out that not much has changed since she started in the business at Leo Burnett in 1987. The issue, she said, is focusing on diversity management, which is largely related to data. Tucker’s contention is that success comes from inclusion management: building and integrating DEI efforts into each agency’s organizational strategy.
“That’s the only way we’re going to get it to be sustainable,” she said, noting that the agency-by-agency approach is more effective instead of being a holding company mandate. “Chief diversity officers are lovely people, don’t get me wrong, but it can’t be bolted on. It has to happen with everybody in the agency being committed to and connecting inclusion to drive growth for the agency and its clients.”
At its core, the most crucial agency asset is talent. Dady said Tucker’s assertion that talent is “at the center of everything in our business” energized The Richards Group leadership.
“I was 100% sold at that moment,” recalled Dady.
According to Tucker—who spent over 11 years at The Martin Agency and left as the shop’s director of decision sciences—mismanagement and lack of investment are fundamental problems. Additionally, opportunity hoarding, which comes in the form of cronyism and nepotism, holds agencies back and can create a culture that looks inward instead of outward at possibility.
“Inclusion management is about [getting] the right people into the right jobs, continuously leveraging those relevant differences to provide clients with the work that speaks to an increasingly multicultural audience,” Tucker said.
Indeed, the culture at The Richards Group started and ended with Stan Richards. Long known as a powerhouse creative shop, Dady points to what he termed “Stan-isms,” referring to some of the founder’s policies or behaviors.
“He had reasons why he put those in place, but all of those are up for review now,” he said. “We are examining every aspect of the agency’s operations and culture. Nothing is off the table, up to and including a name change [for the agency].”