Reverend Roy. He’s known for co-founding GSD&M in 1971 with partners Judy Trabulsi, Steve Gurasich and Tim McClure, but he’s perhaps best known for his electric and passionate personality. So, it was with joy and pride, yet little surprise, when we learned our fearless leader would be the first Austinite and second Texan to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s 67th Annual Advertising Hall of Fame. His accomplishments include bringing on renowned brands like Southwest Airlines, Walmart, AT&T and Charles Schwab to the GSD&M roster, authoring three books, co-founding The Purpose Institute to help companies find their core purpose and values, and even starting his own hot sauce line, Royito’s. But it is Roy’s heart, as President Bill Clinton noted at the induction ceremony, that’s led him to success in advertising, leadership and all aspects of life. We couldn’t be more proud of you, Reverend Roy. Ride At Dawn! 

We (GSD&M’s Social Media Department) sat on the edge of our seats with baited breath as each announcement during the Facebook f8 Developers Conference rolled out. With racing hearts and sweaty palms—no we’re not exaggerating; yes, we love social media that much—we waited as the last announcement was unveiled. To no avail, we were left wondering how f8 failed to mention the product improvements we begged for on our Christmas lists to Zuckerberg. We even tried to call, but Santa must have changed his number.

In all seriousness, to create the most engaging content on behalf of our clients and to continuously evolve our practice, we have some hot-punch list items for Facebook:

And personally, here are a couple ways I believe Facebook could get us to spend even more of our time—outside of work—staring at our phones:

So yes, f8 spiked our curiosity and had us at the edge of our seats waiting for what’s next in the world of social media. But like a kid who got socks in his stocking, we were kind of unimpressed with the lack of “shock” that Christmas brought this year. So come on Zuckerberg, turn off your algorithm switch and hear what we’re saying.

Here it comes. The big game. Super Bowl 50. Super Bowl L…uh, okay, 50 sounds better. It’s been the big game for football for 50 years. It’s also been the big game for advertising almost that long. But what is so big about the big game for advertisers and marketers? Is it the inflated media budgets? The staggering number of eyeballs watching? The opportunity for pull-out-all-the-stops celebrity spots? Perhaps… 

When you think about it though, the big game is only as big as we want it to be. After all, it is just a game: a bunch of guys playing catch with a ball, a four-hour time-suck in front of a screen, dozens of commercials trying to get you to buy something.

Or maybe something different. Something bigger and better: athletes who have worked their entire lives honing their skills, strengths and accuracy to prove themselves on the biggest stage of their lives; a worldwide moment when fans and admirers alike can ride the emotional rollercoaster of the scoreboard and join together to will their favorite to win; and brands who are working to become less of an interruption in your programming and instead a welcomed guest in your home.

And for us, as GSD&Mers and stewards of great brands, that makes it no different than what we try to do every day. We as a team strive restlessly each and every day to get great creative, mind-blowing and groundbreaking work out the door. We are always striving to do what’s never been done for our clients or for any brand before and discover and capture unique insights that lead us to create something truly worth seeing, and worth speaking about before, during the game…and long after.

Sure, it is nice to have a media platform that will reach 114 million viewers, which we do this year with another fantastic Avocados From Mexico spot. But after it runs and the hype of the Super Bowl fades away, we still want to speak to the one. The one person in our sights who genuinely wants the product we are sharing. To the one it will actually make a difference for.

So here’s to the big game. Here’s to being dreamers, doers and storytellers. And here’s to every other big game we play every day in this crazy business we love so darn much. And finally, here’s to every single GSD&Mer and beyond who works so hard as a team to make great work happen. Enjoy it! After all, you made it.

IMG_5457 copy 2As a self-professed technophile, attending CES was a life goal for me. So in heading to 2016 CES, I couldn’t wait to find the next great thing to connect with my Sonos, Hue and SmartThings and make my “connected life” complete. More importantly, this was an opportunity to find the new advancements that would be game changers for our department, agency and clients. Bring it, Vegas!

But, upon arrival, as I stood longingly in front of a smart refrigerator that alerts you when your food is near expiration and creates a grocery list based on your purchasing patterns, an unexpected thought occurred to me: Not many (okay, none) of my friends or peers are jumping at the opportunity to have their home play their theme song when they rise in the morning or for their lights to alter to match their mood when they return home from work. In fact, I suspect the average American consumer is barely aware that CES—or this type of technology offering—even exists.

So if it doesn’t apply to everyone, how does technology of the future apply to the audiences of today?

Brands have to find ways to make ultra-forward-thinking technology accessible for and adoptable by the mass consumer. And by doing so, brands have to be realistic about adoption curves.

Brands have to look for insights into the problems technology is attempting to solve and find more realistic ways to address these issues.

Let’s use my coveted refrigerator as an example. Sure, it’d be great if I got a text when my guacamole was about to expire. But the bigger issue here is less about having excess tortilla chips and nowhere to dip them and more about the global problem of food waste vs. food scarcity. Now that’s an entirely different subject for a separate blog post, but my point is that high-end technology isn’t the only way to solve the problem of food waste.

Packaging: Let’s rethink it. What if food packaging changed color when nearing expiration? Or, food that had a 1–2 day refrigerator life was placed in green bags, while food lasting 3–5 days had an orange package?

Existing data. Grocery stores and brands already know what consumers are purchasing. What if we used the technology that gives certain customers certain coupons to send notifications when the bananas they bought last week were better fit for banana bread? 

Communities that work. The social network Nextdoor has made it exceptionally easy to alert neighbors of a lost pet. Could like-apps also offer up to neighbors that carton of milk or unopened tub of guacamole that will go bad while you’re at CES?

Perhaps I have a personal plight with the items in my fridge, but this is the type of thinking that CES inspired. What problems can we solve with the technology we already have, rather than assuming consumers are ready to adopt the latest-and-greatest—in smart fridges?

How can we solve transportation and commuter issues until the drone is ready for prime time? How can we make reality better than the virtual version?

Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is one of our best approaches to solving problems. But in doing so we can’t lose sight of the people who have never heard of CES and will never understand the need for a $10K refrigerator that beeps when their bananas are no longer that perfect shade of yellow.

We, as consumers, brands and advertisers have to be smarter than the smart things.

Now, about that robotic dog. Dog ownership sounds hard, so this is problem solver I could get behind. See you at the “dog” park.IMG_5456 copy

By Zinny Bonner, Communication Intern

GSD&M’s first ITMAD event concluded yesterday after a series of sessions focused on innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and experience design with presenters from GSD&M and guest speakers from Southwest Airlines and Silvercar. As part of the event, we were also able to tour the U.S. Air Force’s latest experiential tour.


Starting off with a bang, or rather a jaw-dropping hologram demo, Heather Hvidsten, senior director of product management and product innovation at Southwest Airlines, presented Honk If You Are Sick of Talking About Innovation! With a father who worked at NASA and mother who is an artist, Heather was raised to think outside of the box. She looks at innovation with the mindset that every single person is perfect exactly the way they are. She encourages, “If you are passionate and not in a group that feels the same way, it’s not you, it’s the group. So change the group.” Innovation is about making something great ever better. To do this, Heather organizes rapid innovation workshops that encourage participants to open their minds and think differently. She puts crossfunctional teams together to accelerate the idea process. Most importantly, however, she engaged every aspect of Southwest Airlines’ team, from finance to creative, by emphasizing the many different roles involved in innovation. “The role of the supporter is just as important, if not more important, than the role of the idea creator,” she said.


The second session of the day, Capturing Moments & Building Stories: Instagram for Business, by Janice Suter, director of social media, and Caitlin McDaniel, senior social media manager, began with a display of how great ideas can come from a platform. With Instagram’s 64 million followers, brands everywhere are starting to notice the influence of the visually pleasing and culturally dominant platform. With Instagram, influencers offer something unique in shaping the story behind a brand —the ability to tell a brand’s story from a personal and genuine perspective. Brands can use these influencers along with unique content their own photo streams to engage audiences and take them places they’ve never been.

Having just opening its ninth location, Silvercar’s Russ Lemmer, co-founder and VP marketing, and Allen Darnell, CTO, presented Silvercar: Better Experience, Better Brand. Car rental is an industry notorious for lack of customer satisfaction and consistency. Silvercar recognized the need for a consistent, mobile-first and modern solution to car rental. To create a meaningful solution, Silvercar focused on taking advantage of all of the amazing tools and current technology available to maximize user experience. Russ Lemmer reminded the audience that one of the most powerful tools for the future of marketing is something we all have: the smartphone. Recognizing the value of smartphone technology, Silvercar is a 100% mobile service. By doing this, Silvercar cuts out most of what makes car rental a painful process in pursuit of their ultimate goal: a seamless product experience and maximum customer satisfaction. The less friction their customers have to endure, the more valuable they consider the Silvercar product.


Rye Clifton, the agency’s director of experience design, discussed Connect the Dots, La La La La: Dissecting the Components of a Startup & Reassembling Them for Your Clients. In this session, Rye pinpointed a few agency clients and other brands that are really paving the way for other companies and across different industries. Rye also chatted about the pros of thinking like a startup and noted it’s best to start small then add on to a brand experience, the big takeaway being the solution to a business problem is sometimes not an ad at all.

At the last session, Amanda Parker, senior media planner, gave an overview on some of the conversations at the recent Ad Age Digital Conference that sparked the original ITMAD idea. In Integrity & Insight: Conversations Sparked at Ad Age Digital, the main points established were everyone’s role in consumer experience management, why it’s crucial to have the right people in the room and how agencies provide platforms for data, tech and progress. When it comes to the consumer experience, a team must remember that everything leads back to consumers. They are what keeps a brand going; however, it is hard to control every aspect that affects the consumer experience, so teams must work together to keep the consumer in mind at every step.

Platforms are the new service that agencies bring to their clients, and the data they house and the innovation they allow are what move business and make good partners. Amanda Parker emphasized the importance of utilizing technology that has already been established, similar to Silvercar’s idea, in order to create a foundation for problem solving through calculated risks. We learned that innovation should be thought of as “70-20-10”: 70% are the things you know for sure work for your business, 20% are tested strategies that are still evolving and the final 10% is the room you have left to take a leap of faith in true innovation. In closing, Amanda said, “There was a lot to be gleaned from the best and the brightest in our industry, but at the end of the day it was really affirmed that we’re in the same progressive track here at GSD&M.”

Our first ITMAD (Ideas that Make a Difference) event started yesterday leaving the audience eager to hear today’s four sessions. Across the two-day mini conference, the conversation focuses on a range of topics including innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, experience design, disruption and creativity with GSD&M presenters as well as guest speakers Heather Hvidsten from Southwest Airlines and Russ Lemmer from Silvercar.

With a packed room so early in the morning, GSD&M’s Director of Experience Design Derek Dollahite kicked off ITMAD with Experience Design: No Best Practices When Designing for Happiness. Design invades our lives now more than ever, and Derek noted the power technology has in determining the future of design. “Experimental Design uses technology to emphasize user experience and create culturally relevant solutions” – his advice for incorporating experience design into your work? Takeaway: “ENKS” – Embrace Not Knowing Shit.DerekJonathan Hart, VP/Decision Sciences at the agency also wowed the attendees with his exploration of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Digital’s Place in the Origin and Development of the Universe, But Didn’t Know to Ask. In this, he walked through the evolution of digital in concert with the origin and organization of the universe, starting with the Big Bang and ending with positing that perhaps we are all just participants in a giant simulation of life as we know it. Understanding how the universe organizes itself gives us insight into the future of computational power as well, and a peek into a future in which we may cross the threshold of evolution with the introduction of conscious machines. In the words of visiting filmmaker Alex Johnson, “I didn’t know this was going to get spiritual!”

Alex R. Johnson brought his film, Two Step as part of a discussion of nurturing ideas, creative collaboration and sources of inspiration for storytelling. Alex also discussed his move from Brooklyn to Austin, and how the creative culture of Austin helped move a project along to fruition. In addition to being filmed entirely in Austin, Two Step features a cast that includes guest appearances by local music artists Dale Watson and Jesse Dayton, The film was scored by a local musician, Andrew Kenny, who Alex had originally met doing commercial production and music videos in New York City. The film was a riveting thriller that kept the audience on edge. Let’s just say after watching you might think twice about using drive-up ATMs.

As the last session, Digital Producer Amanda Traversi and Account Manager Adrienne Strange presented “WTF? We Do This S**t?” Launching the Air Force Performance Lab. In this, they gave an in-depth look at the creative, production processes, technologies and partnerships involved in creating the latest U.S. Air Force experiential tour now crossing the country. As noted, “unlike most brands, you can’t try on or test the Air Force. In turn, our team sets out to create the most engaging and inspiring experience possible.” They proved that if there is a will, there is a way, especially working with a set of partners all focused on the success of the project and a deep understanding of the project goals. After exploring countless new technologies and options, they made the trailer a completely physical experience by providing visual, competitive, and informative games. The team also mentioned they looked beyond the experiential aspect of the project as well, by measuring and recording data, which is involved in reengaging potential recruits and serves as valuable data for the future.


With everyone headed to Cannes next week, the party RSVPs, restaurant recommendations, and “franglais” (an affectionate term for English/French mish-mashes, i.e. “I’m going to Whole Foods for dejeuner”) are flowing.

Ok, people aren’t actually speaking in franglais. But I’ve seen a few French words pop up here and there in Cannes-related tweets, which is very exciting because it makes me feel like my otherwise not-so-useful degree in French is finally coming in handy.

Though I won’t be traveling to Cannes next week (unless I can find some free space in someone’s carry-on—an unlikely scenario at best), I can tell you this: if it were me, I’d probably last about three days of beaching and award showing and partying and networking before I needed a little break from “le monde.”

Enter Avoid Humans, Cannes edition. Because even fancy wannabe French socialites need a break from the masses every once in a while. Or a place to take a conference call in peace. Or (let’s be honest) a quiet place to nurse a rosé-induced hangover. Happens to the best of us.

Now, allez et vous amusez bien. Bon voyage à Cannes!

The Civil Rights Summit wrapped up yesterday with many power players in attendance to spread the message of We Shall Overcome and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The audience and speaker program, produced by Autumn Rich & Co., were made up with the who’s who of Austin and Washington D.C. to include the current and former presidents, athletes, social activists, marketers, politicians, among others. Here are a few behind the curtain moments you won’t find anywhere else.


 (CBS News’ Bob Schieffer and Luci Baines Johnson)

(Reverend Jesse Jackson)


(Translation Founder and CEO Steve Stoute and NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson)


 (Former President George W. Bush)

(Maria Shriver and David Robinson)

By Jackie Coffey, Associate Digital Director

Yes, that’s right, all media is social. You can add that hashtag to just about anything. Does that make it social? Technically, yes. Realistically, eh – no.

But what about all media being digital? That’s a bit harder to swallow in this TV-centric age, but are we moving in the right direction? HELL YES. And may I add FINALLY.

At the Ad Age Digital conference last week, themes stretched from…

1. Leading a purpose-driven work environment (GSD&M was built on purpose; it is engraved on our floor, literally).

2. Embracing the story that data is telling. Listen to it, use it, and change the status quo. But remember that behind data there is a consumer.

3. Brands need to start adding value to consumers, not interrupt their experiences. Starting with content and understanding the user experience.

And last but not least: Stop planning, Start adjusting.

This takes us back to the notion that all media is digital. As marketers we need to understand what consumers are thinking, how they are behaving and what they will do next. Our job is to predict the “next big thing” and help put our clients ahead of the curve. To do this we need to stop battling for the user’s attention and start providing them with something that they actually need, want and are looking for. We should also re-address the value of “traditional” media spots, banners, and ad placements.

Technology is a game changer, data is driving insights, we are able to adjust on the fly, and consumers are adapting alongside. Soon we will be able to access any and all content, by simply asking, or searching or saying the program title. The channel number and name of site or network will soon be irrelevant. So what does this mean for marketers? Options need to be included in upfront plans and we need to focus on how the user is accessing content. We must be able to adjust and optimize on a real-time basis and develop content strategies based on what story that data is telling. The technology is there, so let’s use it.

So what is the prediction coming out of the Ad Age Digital Conference, well, this is it: consumers will drive how content is provided. And it starts with digital and gets better with data.

By Megan Vo, Creative Intern

Here’s something unsettling – only about 3% of Creative Directors are women. And no, it’s not because we aren’t talented.

I attended the 3% Conference last week in San Francisco, and it was amazing to be involved in the discussion of the “why” behind this insight. Simply acknowledging our industry’s lack of female creative leadership brings us one step closer to further reflecting our diverse consumer base.(Image: 3% Conference)

Often, we look at advertising through the lens of the male gaze. Being “male” is the default mindset, and the “female” is viewed as an other. Women are perceived as a niche. However, women are responsible for 90% of electronic purchases and influence 60% of all car-buying decisions. Women control 80% of US spending and 65% of global spending. Obviously, we’re a force to be reckoned with. That’s not a niche – that’s a market.

The dichotomy between a “woman’s account” and a “man’s account” needs to be erased. What I love about advertising is its power to tell a brand’s story, and the best stories carry a universal truth that defies gender.

Cindy Gallop, former chair of BBH USA remarked that, “women challenge the status quo because we are never it.” Advertising agencies need to challenge existing structures and take a look around the room. Creative work isn’t fostered in an environment of homogeneity.

So, what can I do? My takeaway from the two day conference boiled down to: Don’t be scared. Put myself forward.  

The industry still has a long way to go until the male/female ratio reaches 50%, but I will gladly do my part to inspire change.