GSD&M, the agency that helped put Southwest Airlines on the map among other notable credits, turned 50 in August. In today’s crowded field, that’s no easy feat.
The Austin, TX-based agency, now with 300-plus employees was founded in 1971 by University of Texas graduates Steve Gurasich, Roy Spence, Tim McClure, and Judy Trabulsi.
The agency created Southwest’s “Bags Fly Free” slogan and developed the “Wanna Get Away” campaign for the airline in the 90’s with a series of ads depicting people in incredibly awkward situations where the best solutions would be to, well, get away. Far away.
The agency is also credited with the coining the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas,” which it developed for the Texas Department of Transportation to promote litter prevention in the state back in the mid-1980s.
The shop also worked with Walmart for about two decades beginning in 1987 helping transform the big box retailer into the behemoth it is today. The agency parted ways with Walmart after the latter’s infamous “redo” agency pitch in 2006 but that’s another story. Agency officials have estimated that they helped Walmart grow about ten-fold to over $300 billion in revenue during their time together.
The agency made the Guinness Book of World Records with the U.S. Air Force for their Million Piece Mission puzzle, started a “chicken sandwich war” on behalf of client Popeye’s, and more recently launched the first recruitment campaign for the country’s newest branch of the military, The USAF Space Force.
The agency is now led by Duff Stewart who was named CEO in 2009. He was hand-picked by the founders as an intern and worked his way up through the ranks over 32 years at the agency. The agency became a part of Omnicom in 1998.
“At its core, GSD&M has always been about its people and its pride of place,” Stewart says. “I feel thankful to work with such a talented group of people, and there is no place quite like Austin. It’s fueled a creative spirit from the day our founders, Steve, Roy, Judy and Tim opened the doors 50 years ago.”
Co-founder and former CEO Spence remains Chairman of the agency and formed a consultancy with Trabulsi called The Purpose Institute. McClure now heads up several organizations that he’s founded including Mythos Legends and Iconic Texas. Gurasich, known affectionately as “Big Daddy” at the agency, passed away earlier this year at the age of 73. The “D” in GSD&M, Jim Darilek left the agency just a couple of years after its founding to pursue a separate career.