Opening General Session Keynote
Sunday, March 1, 4:00 - 5:30 PM
Information Coming Soon
It was 1971, and four University of Texas soon-to-be graduates decided to start an advertising agency in Austin, Texas—then a funky little college town known primarily for hippies, Texas Longhorns, and Willie Nelson. Their simple business plan was to stay together, stay in Austin, and use the power of marketing to make a difference. Forty-seven years later, Spence and his partners are still together, still in Austin, and still trying to make a difference. Spence signs every letter with the words, “Ride at Dawn.” That’s not just a sign-off, it’s a manifesto—a call to action to live life to its fullest every day.
Spence and his partners built GSD&M from scratch into a marketing, advertising, and idea machine: flying with Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; riding with Sam Walton, founder of Walmart; driving with BMW and the PGA TOUR; and defending freedom with the United States Air Force. They also donated their time and talent to create compelling public service awareness (PSA) ads to mobilize goodwill in moments that matter the most (e.g., after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti) and, recently, filmed and produced PSAs with the five former presidents for hurricane relief for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Spence’s passion is entrepreneurship, which he refers to as “the miracle of America.” He deeply believes that when America is at her best, it does not matter what your last name or zip code is. If you can dream it, you can build it. Spence is also co-founder and CEO of The Purpose Institute, which is also home-based in Austin. The Purpose Institute is singularly focused on discovering the higher calling purpose and core values that define and shape an organization’s culture and the core purpose that captures the difference an organization makes in the world.
Spence co-authored The Wall Street Journal best-selling book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose, and authored The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, a collection of heartwarming stories about the need for gratitude and love.
In 2018, Spence founded The Promiseland Project to unleash the power of purpose‐inspired marketing and messaging to help bridge the massive cultural divide in America. The Promiseland Project is a large and diverse group of purpose‐driven communications professionals from all over America whose passion is a unified America. The goal is to inspire and engage the American people to help move America from the dark winter of political and cultural division into a bright new dawn of a culture of “us.”
Spence is also a Gallup Senior Adviser as Gallup’s expert on purpose and a champion of Clifton’s Strengths Movement. Over 14 million people around the world have taken Clifton’s StrengthsFinder assessment, all in the effort to help people everywhere discover and then play to their strengths in work and life.
Spence has been inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame and The University of Texas McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame. Texas Monthly magazine named him “Adman of the Century,” and he is a Distinguished Alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin as well as a Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation board member.