This month marks 45 years since the creatively driven, full-service agency, GSD&M, opened its doors for business. Founded in 1971 with a $5,000 loan by five friends and University of Texas graduates, Steve and Bill Gurasich, Tim McClure, Judy Trabulsi and 2016 Ad Hall of Famer, Roy Spence, the agency has become one of the preeminent agencies in the country, representing iconic brands including Southwest Airlines, PGA TOUR, Hilton, Chipotle, Dodge, the U.S. Air Force, John Deere and Popeyes, among others.
The founders learned early on that the best clients to work for were ones that genuinely wanted to make a difference in their customers’ lives. This belief in purpose led GSD&M to meaningful partnerships and iconic work from taglines like “Don’t Mess with Texas” for the Texas Department of Transportation to “These Guys are Good” for the PGA TOUR (which is still the longest-running slogan in sports marketing history). It’s also what launched the now 35-year partnership with Southwest Airlines that took it from a regional carrier to the largest domestic airline with campaigns like “Wanna Get Away?” and “Ding. You are now free to move about the country.” And it’s the ideal that led the agency to successfully relaunch the AT&T brand in 2006 and help Walmart grow from an overlooked regional retailer to the largest corporation in the world.
“Forty-five years ago, the founders came at advertising differently,” says GSD&M’s CEO, Duff Stewart. “They weren’t seasoned, so they didn’t know the rules or the status quo. It was their unconventional approach that made them the agency you didn’t want to pitch against and today it’s that competitive, entrepreneurial spirit that continues to set us apart.”
Today, the agency is led by a new generation of relentless idea seekers. CEO, Duff Stewart; President, Marianne Malina; Chief Creative Officer, Jay Russell; and CMO, J.B. Raftus amplify the curious and restless spirit that GSD&M was founded on and have an unwavering calling to explore uncharted waters, build brands and catapult the agency and industry forward.
In 2016, the agency is made up of a wildly diverse bunch who double as professors, artists, volunteers and entrepreneurs. What they share is a passion to solve courageously and never settle for anything less than an idea that makes a difference. Most recently:
- GSD&M has taken three consecutive trips to the Super Bowl beginning with RadioShack’s famed mea culpa, “The ’80s called and they want their store back” in 2014, which won Bronze at Cannes Lion Festival. Two laugh-out-loud spots from Avocados from Mexico followed in 2015 and 2016, helping boost brand sales by 35 percent after the first year alone.
- With 22-year partner Lennox, GSD&M created Degrees of Perfect, a first-of-its-kind experiential event that bridged the gap between art and engineering and broke the mundane mold that is the HVAC industry.
- Popeyes pioneered usage of Facebook Live when GSD&M created a virtual drive-thru to celebrate National Fried Chicken Day and delivered fried chicken straight to fans’ doors.
- With Cannes Lion-winning campaigns like The Collaboratory and the redesign of airforce.com, GSD&M’s 16-year partner, the U.S. Air Force, leads innovation in today’s military space with immersive, personalized and experiential recruitment tactics.
- This year, Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge named GSD&M its brand agency. A new tagline was created, “Domestic. Not Domesticated.” This new partnership with Dodge continues the agency’s expertise in the auto category following its four-year partnership with Land Rover and five-year relationship with BMW.
- In 2015, GSD&M helped Southwest Airlines coin Transfarency, a bold stance against unfair airline fees. Proving its dedication, it followed with #FeesDontFly Day, a social media campaign where Southwest responded to disgruntled travelers by reimbursing them for other airlines’ fees.
GSD&M remains one of the few agencies with both a fully integrated media planning and buying discipline and full-service multicultural capabilities. It’s an agency born and raised in Austin, Texas—a city that shares GSD&M’s love for authenticity, entrepreneurism and restlessness.