Roy Spence—American Populist

“What you stand for is as important as what you sell.” -Roy Spence
Roy Spence is a character. He’s also the “S” in GSD&M, one of America’s premier advertising agencies.
Roy is presently away from Idea City. Yet his ideas are flowing. He’s on a 20-plus miles a day walk across America, where he’s seeking to connect with the goodness that is America.

At the heart of America is the central truth that when we are our best, we are united around the common good. And that light of goodness needs to shine brightly because the people of America are good people. I intend to shine a bright light on that innate goodness of America.

This is not Roy’s first foray into the heart of America. He previously travelled across Texas and wrote a book, Amazing Faith of Texas, about it. While reading through the material for this post, I came across Spence’s “purpose-based branding” philosophy.

The concept is described on GSD&M’s main site:

GSD&M takes branding to its most fertile territory yet. Purpose-based Branding (PBB) is the art of discovering a company’s core purpose and then infusing that purpose with language and ideas that motivate audiences. PBB distinguishes a brand by detecting and embracing the fundemental role that brand plays in the world. When a company identifies its genuine and authentic purpose, it becomes destined, not lucky, to win.

People like to laugh at lofty ideals. But I don’t. I’m inspired by the pursuit of such things. Purpose, meaning, making a difference in people’s lives…this is exactly what communications professionals ought to aspire to and be driven by.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today, as head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon, I'm focused on providing affordable and effective integrated marketing solutions to mid-market clients.


  1. Jason Peterson says:

    While I think Spence’s Walk Across America is inspirational. GSD&M, is in no way, shape or form “one of America’s premier advertising agencies.” Not even close.

  2. schrodinger's copywriter says:

    Premier? maybe, maybe not.
    GSDM has done some really good work over the years, though they’ve been having a hard time lately. I do think their creative prowess gets overrated a bit because of their location in an awesome city (austin) and the fact that Texas is somewhat lacking in standout creative-driven agencies.

  3. I just want to say that I love the phrase, “the goodness that is america.”

  4. Roostrdude says:

    Roy Spence is full of shit.