There is irony in Roy Spence being enshrined in the Advertising Hall of Fame as he’s never really considered himself an “adman.” Never forgetting his supportive Brownwood, Texas, roots, he founded GSD&M in 1971 straight out of The University of Texas with Judy Trabulsi, Tim McClure and Steve and Bill Gurasich. He didn’t know what an advertising agency was. He was, however, a creative problem solver, a powerful communicator, and a champion of the extraordinary people and culture of GSD&M. And with that combination went on to help build GSD&M into one of the most successful and revered agencies in the country.
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.
And the list goes on: He famously proved to BMW that a creative powerhouse in Austin, Texas, 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 Roy was at Ed Whitacre’s side leading AT&T through it’s rebirth from a limiting and single-focused long distance carrier to a modern global communications company. The faith that Roy engendered from such legendary CEOs inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg to entrust GSD&M with his beloved Dreamworks account.
Roy’s always found time to take on some of humanity’s most challenging moments. His “I am an American” PSA spot after 9/11 inspired a whole nation by reminding us that “we are all in this together.” And when hurricanes and tsunamis hit, Roy produced compelling PSAs with three Presidents—Clinton, Bush 41 and Bush 43 that helped generate millions in aid.
In the wee hours, he advises U.S. presidents, huddles with Jim Collins about new ways to activate purpose, writes books—including the Wall Street Journal’s best seller “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for”—and even started Royito’s Hot Sauce company.
Roy cofounded the Purpose Institute in 2007 to help companies discover, articulate and activate their core purpose.
He is a Gallup Senior Advisor, a board member of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and is simply in awe of his wife Mary, his kids and his grandkids.