Austin Ad Agency Reflects on Decades Creating Iconic Campaigns like #ChickenSandwichWars, “Aim High” and “Don’t Mess With Texas”

AUSTIN, TX (Aug. 27, 2021) — This month, Austin-born advertising agency GSD&M celebrates its 50th anniversary. With over 300 employees, GSD&M was founded in 1971 by University of Texas at Austin graduates Steve and Bill Gurasich, Roy Spence, Tim McClure, Judy Trabulsi and Jim Darilek who were fresh out of school with a lot to prove. Going up against coastal, big ad agency honchos, this incredible group of entrepreneurs showed the world that big ideas can come from places far off Madison Avenue.

GSD&M distinguishes itself as an agency that builds First & Only brands, holding its work to a different standard by asking, “Are we the first ones to do it and the only ones who can?” This approach creates valuable currency for brands and helps them break away from competitors.

Over the past 50 years, the agency helped elect a president, launch an airline, turn Walmart into a global retail force, gave Texas its rallying cry, created a national chicken war and launched a new branch of the military. GSD&M has won the Super Bowl, cleaned up at Cannes and continues to help iconic brands win every day. Today, GSD&M is a global, fully integrated agency in the music, food and “weird” capital of the world.

The agency has always been passionate about creating a space where diverse representation is not just seen but heard. Seventeen years ago, the agency pioneered an educational program to support minority business owners who wanted to work in the advertising industry by creating a Vendor Diversity Program, making GSD&M the first agency in the industry to develop and implement a formal vendor partner diversity initiative.

The agency is led by CEO, Duff Stewart, who was handpicked by the founders as an intern and worked his way up the ranks over 32 years at the agency.

“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.”

Duff and his leadership team have proudly developed an agency culture and reputation that has stood the test of time. Some employees are going on 20 plus years with the agency, a retention rate that is almost unheard of in the advertising industry.

“It’s not easy to influence culture with ideas as big as painting a plane like a whale or coming up ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ or creating a chicken war, but the teams here raise the bar every year,” Jay Russell, GSD&M Chief Creative Officer says. “As the agency turns 50, I feel a great sense of gratitude for this amazing group of talented people.”

GSD&M lives by its core values; integrity, curiosity, community, restlessness, freedom, responsibility and winning. It’s what our culture has been built on and why we have been successful for 50 years.

To view some of GSD&M’s greatest hits, visit


Founded in 1971, GSD&M is a creatively driven, fully integrated agency born and raised in Austin, Texas. We’ve been building some of the world’s most iconic brands for the past 50 years. Headquartered in the music-loving, tech-driven, creative hub that is Austin, Texas, we exist to create ideas that make a difference by cultivating First & Only work—fueled by ideas that are the first of their kind for the only brands that can pull them off. Our culture is restless, our people are curious and ideas are our currency. It is our maverick attitude and entrepreneurial spirit that still burn brightly today in our people, our culture and our approach to our clients’ businesses.

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