Texas Monthly Talks with Roy Spence

Program: Texas Monthly Talks
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, Feb. 19
Also airs: Sunday, Feb. 22, at 12:30 p.m.
Watch episodes online at klru.org/texasmonthlytalks

He is one of the great salesmen — a natural storyteller and pitchman, someone who instinctively understands what motivates buyers and sellers alike, and, thankfully, someone who understands that there’s more to life than commerce. Maybe it’s because he didn’t start out expecting to become the leading Texas adman of his day and has never thought of himself in the quote-unquote advertising business. Born and raised 60 years ago in the tiny town of Brownwood, Roy Spence enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin intending to be a lawyer. One pre-law class cured him of that particular affliction, and he switched his major to government. But when he graduated, Spence didn’t go into politics. Instead, he and four friends, all fellow UT grads, decided to start an ad agency. GSD&M quickly became a player statewide and then nationally, collecting a fledging airline known as Southwest as its first blue-chip client and expanding the roster to including Wal-Mart, the parent company of the Chili’s restauran chin, AT&T, Krispy Kreme, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the Texas Department of Transportation, for which Spence’s partner, Tim McClure, created the iconic “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign. The “We’re Texas” tagline for his alma mater was also a GSD&M creation, along with the “I am Amercan” pro-bono spot developed after 9/11. The latter is a case of Spence and his team elevating making a difference over making money, which has been a hallmark of his career, and that philosophy has culminated in the publication of his new book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What you Stand For, an extended argument that companies should be organized with an eye to making a difference, that the best leaders are leaders of great purpose, and that it’s the obligation of those leaders to demonstrate to their employees and customers, as they title suggests, that they stand for something. What Spence himself stands for is clear; he recently spun off a Purpose Institute from GSD&M and turned an even greater focus of his time and attention to making his world and our world a better place. A conversation with Roy Spence, on this edition of TEXAS MONTHLY TALKS.

— Evan Smith, host of Texas Monthly Talks