Brownwood native Roy Spence of the GSD&M agency in Austin will be inducted Monday night into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame, joining six other executives being honored during one of the industry’s biggest events.
The 67th annual induction ceremony and gala dinner will be held in the Grand Ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Spence co-founded GSD&M in 1971 with partners Judy Trabulsi, Steve Gurasich and Tim McClure. This group of University of Texas graduates had passion and determination to finagle their way into big pitches — taking on big-name competition and coming out on top — and setting the stage for the next 44 years.
Spence is credited with being instrumental in giving GSD&M its hands-on, restless approach to business. He also brought in life-long client partners like Southwest Airlines, Walmart, AT&T and Charles Schwab. The work he and his team created proved memorable and ageless, and included the famous Texan tagline “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
In 2001, his firm developed the “Feels Like Home” motto for Brownwood, the city he still calls home almost 50 years after graduating from Brownwood High School. It was tied to the community’s celebration of the debut of a website portal that expanded to include an annual festival that became the Brownwood Reunion Celebration.
“Over the years, GSD&M developed the reputation as an agency you didn’t want to pitch against,” Duff Stewart, CEO of GSD&M said. “With ‘Reverend Roy’ in the room, the magic flowed and it was an electric feeling. You were buying whatever he was selling. I’m honored to now call Roy a trusted friend and confidant, an inspiring leader and an amazing mentor. The lessons I have learned from him are comparable to getting an MBA and a Ph.D. in life sciences — all rolled into one.”
In its biography of Spence, the AAF notes that there is irony in Spence being enshrined in the Advertising Hall of Fame because he’s never really considered himself an “ad man.” Always mindful of his supportive Brownwood roots, Spence collaborated with his partners to create GSD&M in 1971 without really knowing what an advertising agency was. They did know that they wanted to start their careers in Austin.
“(Spence) was a creative problem solver, a powerful communicator and a champion of the extraordinary people and culture of GSD&M. And with that combination, he went on to help build GSD&M into one of the most successful and revered agencies in the country,” the Hall of Fame biography states.
“Roy didn’t read advertising books or know any of the agency world’s icons. He was inspired by visionary CEOs and the thrill of the hunt for sea-changing ideas. He learned retail at the knee of Sam Walton and was a trusted confidant in helping Walmart grow from a small rural retailer to the largest company in the world.
“Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, hired Roy to be his co-pilot on an improbable 34-year journey that saw Southwest go from a fledging regional carrier to the largest domestic airline by passengers boarded, with memorable work like ‘Ding! You’re now free to move about the country,’ becoming a rallying cry for Southwest’s unique core purpose.
“He went on to prove to BMW that a creative powerhouse in Austin could sell luxury automobiles to customers around the globe, and GSD&M educated everyone that you simply ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’.”
The longest running tagline in professional sports — “These Guys are Good” — was the product of a close partnership with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, and Spence was at Ed Whitacre’s side leading AT&T through its rebirth from a limiting and single-focused long distance carrier to a modern global communications company. The faith that Spence engendered from such legendary CEOs inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg to entrust GSD&M with his Dreamworks account.
Spence has also taken on some of humanity’s most challenging moments, the profile states. His “I am an American” public service spot after 9/11 inspired the nation with the reminder, “We are all in this together.” And when hurricanes and tsunamis hit, Spence produced compelling public service announcements with three Presidents — Clinton, Bush 41 and Bush 43 that helped generate millions in aid. President Clinton, a friend for decades, volunteered to introduce Spence at the induction Monday.
Spence also writes books, including The Wall Street Journal’s best seller “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.”
Then there’s the hot sauce business. Spence started Royito’s Hot Sauce company using a family recipe, but don’t look for a less spicy option. Just as his father Roy Spence Sr. taught him, Royito doesn’t “do mild” in any endeavor.
Spence co-founded the Purpose Institute in 2007 to help companies discover, articulate and activate their core purpose. He is a Gallup Senior Advisor, and a board member of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation.
“Our Hall of Fame Council of Judges, composed of leaders of advertising and media, advertisers and distinguished Hall of Fame members, was deeply committed to choosing men and women of legendary stature and achievement,” said John B. Osborn, president and CEO of BBDO New York and chairman of the Advertising Hall of Fame.
Other honorees in the 2016 Hall of Fame class are Peggy Conlon, former president and CEO, The Ad Council; Jean-Marie Dru, chairman, TBWAWorldwide; Carla Michelotti, former executive vice president, chief, legal government, corporate affairs officer, Leo Burnett Worldwide; Joe Sedelmaier, film director/producer and president, Sedelmaier Films; Charles H. Townsend, CEO, Condé Nast; Dan Wieden, co-founder+chairman, Wieden+Kennedy.
Wenda Harris Millard, president and COO, MediaLink, and vice chair of the Advertising Hall of Fame, said, “This extraordinary Class of 2016 epitomizes advertising’s lasting impact over time continuing through today, inspiring many more generations to come.”