Recently, Austin was named one of the top 10 best places for the LGBTQ+ community to live, just in time for Austin Pride this weekend. Ahead of the celebration, we chatted with members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies within the agency about what inclusivity means to them and how creativity can’t thrive without it. Keep reading to learn more about how an inclusive city and work environment makes all the difference.

Kirya Francis, VP of Diversity and Inclusion

How do you define inclusion?

I like to think of inclusion to be more like a salad. You come together as individuals and you get to stay an individual, but your presence will be missed if you are not there. 

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives? 

A company’s primary responsibility is to be profitable so that it can stay in business and employ talent. Inclusion makes people happier to be there, and happier people make a better product.  

Kyle Nguyen, Media Planner/Campaign Manager

How have you experienced inclusion at GSD&M?

GSD&M’s culture is inherently inclusive with participation in community events like the Allies Diversity Summit and various panels where GSD&Mers share their stories. 

How does an inclusive environment benefit the work that comes out of GSD&M?

It breaks down walls. The less time we worry about how others perceive us, the more time we have to focus that energy on actually working by bringing our authentic selves to work.

Josh Andrews, Assistant Account Manager 

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives?

It’s important for employees to see reflections of themselves and their identities at work. Without a place to be yourself, employees risk losing themselves to the nature of putting up a guard to those around them. 

How have you experienced inclusion in Austin and at GSD&M?

There are LGBTQIA sports teams, book clubs and even Zilker meet-ups. I’m very happy to see the solidarity of GSD&M walking in Austin’s Pride parade, so cheers to that!

Ashley Davidson, Digital Producer

How do you define inclusion? 

Inclusion is providing an atmosphere of support and involvement for all people regardless of race, religion, background, abilities, gender or sexual orientation. An inclusive environment empowers, educates and collaborates so an individual’s worth is recognized by all.

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives? 

Inclusivity initiatives that support all groups are important for morale, productivity, safety and community-building. You build a stronger company where people both tolerate and celebrate each other’s differences.

Ana Leen, Account Leadership

How have you experienced inclusion at GSD&M? 

Through partnering with organizations like ADCOLOR, E4Youth, Time’s Up/Advertising, Austin Pride and more, we’re both impacting and learning from our community that feeds the pipeline of creativity.

How does an inclusive environment benefit the work that comes out of GSD&M? 

We will think beyond the norm. We will come up with ideas and creative that connect with people in new ways. We will give brands the opportunity to do things differently and stand out from the competition.

Companies need to push inclusion initiatives throughout the year, not just during Pride month. While we’re lucky to live in a welcoming city like Austin, we should never take that for granted. We must continuously celebrate and advocate for inclusion to better our community, our industry and the society in which we live. It’s a disservice to creativity and culture at large if we are not including and representing all voices and speaking up for those who aren’t heard. 

Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor or eminence


Most would agree with this definition. Money, popularity and power don’t seem so bad, right?

As a centennial entering the workforce, I’ve learned that humanity desires much more. Success is not the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence, but rather perpetual joy.

GSD&M interns have Internship Experience Meetings which teach us about different departments within the agency. While learning about said departments, these meetings also helped me come up with what I consider to be the five necessities for true success:

Stay curious. I’m an acting major who interned with GSD&M’s communications team. Kelly Clemons is an architecture major turned IT intern, and Jack Epsteen—once a design major—is now the head of GSD&M’s production department. My point is: shadow people that are doing things of your interest, ask questions and don’t limit yourself. Never stop learning, because curiosity is key to being an active part of the world around you and can lead to paths unknown.

Serve others. Become a servant to those less fortunate than you by volunteering. The one thing no one can get back is time (sorry, guys, still no time travel). It’s the most valuable gift one can give. Staying concerned with the well-being of others can spill over into your work life and will contribute to your journey of success. 

You can’t do it alone. Staying humble is valuable because it drives you to create meaningful work. Remember that no one produces good work alone, so let your team know how grateful you are for them, and use them as a resource for constant inspiration and learning.

Got balance? Miguel Masso, a decision sciences intern, is a firm believer in putting work down at the end of the day and not picking it up until the following morning. Everyone’s beliefs on balance are different, but what we all know to be true is that if you aren’t healthy physically or mentally, what you produce won’t be your best product. We have to put ourselves first. 

Love the environment you’re in. Having a healthy work environment is genuinely rewarding. Any conflict or friction is easier dealt with because it’s known that we have a common goal. Regardless of your title, learn what that “common goal” is and keep it in mind when communicating and working with others. Love and care for your work environment, and it will do the same for you.

Internship Experience Meetings were meant to teach us about several departments within the agency, but for me, the outcome was a lesson about what success really is. At the end of the day, we are not accomplishments and titles. As human beings, we need to find joy in the process. That process is the journey, not a goal.


Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence joy

ADCOLOR exists to establish a community of diverse professionals to support and celebrate one another. Every year, those diverse professionals attend a conference full of the brightest, diverse and innovative minds in the industry. This year, a total of nine GSD&M employees attended, and they returned with meaningful, game-changing insights and inspiration. Along with our attendance, we were an incredibly proud sponsor and as such, wanted to create something as a little reminder of the change we have the power to make. These pins were sent home with every attendee:


I caught up with the folks who attended to see what they learned, so I’ll let the people at the forefront of diversity and inclusion do the talking.

How can the ad industry influence and inspire more work toward diversity in other industries and beyond?

What was your personal most important takeaway from ADCOLOR?


This industry has the power to cultivate change—and it must start where the work happens. These conversations must continue to take place inside and outside of agencies and brands, and although we have a ways to go, we should be incredibly proud and excited to have minds like these fighting for diversity in our industry.

Until next year, ADCOLOR. Here’s to progress.

How often in this industry can we say we’re truly changing lives? How often are we given an opportunity to sell hope instead of product? Those briefs are few and far between. So when Walgreens asked us to create a campaign for their HIV-specialized pharmacies that could help build a better future for those affected by the disease, I was both humbled and elated.

Going into this project, I didn’t know much about HIV. I knew there had been advances in treatment and that people were living longer. But I didn’t know that doctors now consider HIV a chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure. If you’re diagnosed early and adhere to your treatment regimen, you can live a long, healthy life. That was news to me. And as we learned during our briefing, it was still news to the rest of world.

Stigma and fear are the biggest deterrents to getting tested and beginning treatment.

A few days after the briefing, I was sitting in my partner’s office kicking around ideas when he threw out, “Let’s Grow Old Together.” We saw the genius in it immediately. What better way to tell people that their diagnosis is not a death sentence than with the promise of old age. While the line was great, saying you were going to live a long time wasn’t enough. We needed to show people that they could actually grow old with HIV. And that’s when the idea of a virtual timeline came into existence—starting with diagnosis and going through every milestone of the HIV journey, all the way to retirement.

And what if we had people living with HIV be our guides along that timeline, sharing their stories, advice and inspiration at each milestone?

It was a big, ambitious idea—much bigger than the print ads, banners and trade show booths the client was expecting. It was also a digital-first idea, requiring a highly emotive and immersive site experience to truly do it justice. One of the first challenges we faced was integrating that experience into, a primarily e-commerce destination. Finding the appropriate solution wasn’t easy. We worked tirelessly with Walgreens web team and our dev partner MediaMonks, ultimately landing on an elegant solution (plus I learned what canonical tags are).

With the technical part mostly ironed out, it was time to produce the content for the site. Two rounds of casting led us to seven amazing people leading full, happy lives in spite of their diagnosis.

Like a man who’d been diagnosed in the ’80s, an HIV-positive and HIV-negative married couple and a woman who’d only had two T cells at the time of her diagnosis. Walgreens also introduced us to an HIV pharmacist who has an incredible relationship with his patients—a you-couldn’t-script-something-this-sincere-and-heartwarming relationship.

The shoot was filled with tears, revelations and, most importantly, hope.

On the last day, one of the women we were interviewing revealed she’d never really believed she had a bright future until this shoot. Hearing the stories of others just like her had given her a new perspective. If creating the site was this meaningful for the HIV patients we were filming, imagine how transformative it could be for the rest of the HIV community.

Nearly a year from concept to creation, the site is now live, and we’re beginning to hear positive responses from the HIV community. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t go into advertising to change lives. But now I can say it’s the reason I’ll stay in it.

Visit and experience “Let’s Grow Old Together” here.

I ran to the grocery store after work last night to pick up items for a volunteer opportunity today—the Backpack Coalition. It’s only fair to admit that the grocery run came after a lengthy internal conversation about how I was “too tired” from a long day at work to go pick up groceries. Luckily, my conscience took over that conversation and I was quickly reminded of my purpose: not live for myself, but rather for others.

As some background, the Backpack Coalition is an organization that provides food to underprivileged children in Austin. There are a lot of kids who eat only when they’re at school—breakfast and lunch—and won’t eat until they return to school the next day. So, when they leave school on Friday, they will have little to no access to food until they return to school the following Monday. This hugely hinders their ability to learn as it takes the brain two to three days to recover full cognitive ability—meaning they won’t begin learning again until Wednesday.

I imagine these kids sitting in a classroom surrounded by students who are dressed in new back-to-school clothes, barely worn sneakers, with a backpack full of school supplies and homemade snacks to last them the day—and much further than that. Meanwhile, these students are hungry—hungry—and the thought of learning is near impossible when they’re distracted by the sound of their own stomachs growling.

I kept this thought in mind when I was at the grocery store last night, hesitating on how many groceries to buy for the kids. And when my cart was maxed out and food was dropping in the aisles, I still felt like it wasn’t enough. And it wasn’t because at the end of the day, I’d still go home, open a full fridge of food, and prepare a warm—and let’s be honest, underappreciated—home-cooked meal.

Today, a group of us volunteered at the Backpack Coalition; we packed backpacks full of food for these kids to have this weekend and over the holidays when they’re out of school for a week and looking for something to fill their stomachs. As if that experience wasn’t “real” enough for us, we heard stories about the children we were impacting. One in particular was about a mother who received a grant to go to college, which would ultimately ensure that she could provide a better life for her children. But, that grant meant that she was no longer eligible for food stamps. So, she had a decision to make: short-term or long-term wellness for her family. But because of the Backpack Coalition, she didn’t have to choose; she was able to go to college, set an example for her children, and ensure her kids were fed.IMG_3956 copyIn reality, though, it really doesn’t matter how much money we spent on groceries to donate or how much time we spent packing backpacks. What matters is that we took a few hours out of our day to give back to othersto people with stories like that motherand do our part to make the world a little better of a place than it was last night when we went to bed and this morning when we rose.IMG_3967 copyBut this opportunity to better ourselves and our planet wasn’t a solo effort. At GSD&M we are encouraged to volunteer. Now, there are a lot of companies out there that say that. We’ve all heard it—“we encourage our employees to do their part.” But GSD&M doesn’t just talk, it walks. Each month, we are given four hours to volunteer and not only are we given this time away from our desks, but we’re paid for it too. And further than that, the employees work together to make each other aware of how they are volunteering, and even go as far to share it in the internal news so it’s easy for anyone to jump on the train and volunteer. Just this week we had a box set up in the lobby so people who didn’t volunteer for the Coalition could still donate food.

While I’ve just written many, there are few words to explain what it feels like to be part of a company that has a strong sense of purpose and community and continues to evolve to ensure that this purpose and “sense of self” is never lost.

Today’s opportunity to give back to the community felt less like a gift I was giving and more like one that was given to me. And I am 100 percent confident that this gift wouldn’t exist if my company wasn’t pushing me forward, and strongly encouraging me to take four hours out of my day and put it to good use.

It’s one thing to develop our own sense of purpose. It’s not easy, but we spend our lives attempting to do and fulfill it. But how often do we get to say we stand with a company that has it’s own sense of purpose, and a damn good sense of purpose at that?image1[1] copy


The lazy, too-busy-for-this part of me wants to chalk up our entry in this year’s Spicewood Demolition Derby to the fact that crashing cars sounds fun, and we like to do fun things, so we entered.

Alas, it isn’t that simple. It never is.

Truthfully, the idea started with GSD&M Associate Creative Director Joel Williams, who attended last year’s derby and saw an opportunity to bring the agency to a side of Texas it rarely treads upon. (The story is a good one: He tricked his son into believing they were on the way to check out tile samples. Forty-five minutes and a dirt parking lot later, his son realized there were no tiles to sample. He was not disappointed.) So, with the help of our willing and able design team, we started taking steps to make this dream of entering the derby a reality. We even thought of getting a project manager.

While Design Director Marc Ferrino and the gang designed their hearts out to create GSD&Molition swag including shop rags, koozies and t-shirts (shameless plug to buy their stuff!), Joel and I scoured Craigslist in search of our soon-to-be death machine. It wasn’t easy—the car had to be cheap enough to crash and fit enough to run—but in the end, we found her: a 1996 Ford Thunderbird.IMG_2435[3] copyPictured: Joel Williams

Then came pre-production. Joel went to town removing all unnecessary parts from the car to make her light and nimble and fit for a Mad Max film. Marc put in a preliminary order on merchandise that sold out almost instantly. I wrote this blog post. Teamwork, as they say, makes the dream work.gsdemolition[8] copy 2What’s been so fun and so rewarding about this whole process has been the unbridled creativity. As ad creatives, we work inside sandboxes for a living, passing ideas through business-conscious filters that sometimes hold the best stuff back. It’s the nature of the beast, and we love to do it. But every now and then, an opportunity to run headfirst into a project without supervision or even proper safety equipment feels good. I would even say it’s necessary. And I thank everyone who has helped make this possible.

On Saturday, we’re going to see what we, and the car, are made of. The crash goes down at 6pm at the Spicewood Fire Department, and as it’s our ongoing priority to continue to give back to our community, all proceeds from our merchandise sales will benefit our friends at the Spicewood Fire Department (who will likely be saving us from the wreckage that once was our Ford Thunderbird). We may not win but, honey, we’re going to look good trying, and we’re going to be damn happy either way.

Hope to see you there.

Hey, health isn’t everything. You’re missing the second half of the equation. Health and happiness are not exclusive of each other, they are inclusive. They need each other. They feed off of one another. There isn’t a better example of that than Red Nose Day. A true embodiment of “Happy and Healthy”, Red Nose Day is about having fun, raising money and changing lives in the process (

And as a perfect example of being “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy”, Walgreens saw the opportunity to play an integral role of Red Nose Day – be the “Corner” where Red Nose becomes real, tangible and personal. As the exclusive retailer, Walgreens became home to the noses and the start of the Red Nose Day movement. Through an intense social, digital and omni channel effort, Walgreens brought Red Nose Day to life. We developed a campaign encouraging consumers to come to Walgreens, buy your nose, donate a couple bucks and be a little funny for money. And with 5 million noses sold, thousands of selfies shared and close to $10 million dollars raised at Walgreens alone, Red Nose Day is here! Tonight we celebrate Red Nose Day with a 3 hour live, comedic telethon event on NBC.

So grab your nose, your remote, your family, your favorite knock-knock joke and see how the power of happy and healthy comes to life with a good laugh for a good cause – Red Nose Day!

As we say in our :60 second spot you’ll see tonight… It’s funny how a little red nose can have such a big impact.

Red Nose Day, Live on NBC, Tonight, May 21 from 7-10pm CST.


By Ayeshia Toy



Sunday marks International Women’s Day, a day intended to not only celebrate women’s achievements but that also serves as an annual call for greater equality for women across society and within the business realm. These are lofty goals to be sure, but necessary ones to ensure an ongoing focus on the inclusion and retention of women in the business world. And not just because “it’s the right thing to do,” but because the inclusion of women is essential to the growth of a company’s bottom line and for a better economic climate for all businesses and nations. I genuinely believe that continuing to elevate the importance of a female presence on all rungs of the corporate ladder should be at the top of any discussion about talent both in human resources and at the executive level.

As a human resources manager here at GSD&M, I have been grateful to witness our own award-winning efforts of keeping an eye on the prize of diversity overall, including being the agency of record for ADCOLOR, a 501(c) (6) organization whose mission is to celebrate and champion diversity in the advertising, marketing, media, PR and entertainment industries. But specifically, I am heartened by our acknowledgement of the gender gaps still evident in modern advertising long after the era of Mad Men. I’m happy that we were the first agency in Austin to host a 3% event onsite in addition to sending employees to the formal conferences, and that we take pride in sending employees to the local Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy to educate future female workers about the potential careers in advertising and marketing. We also nurture a monthly women’s group to support employees across departments and functions with monthly speakers and content focused on the myriad issues uniquely faced by female professionals.

Ultimately, whatever your industry or job title, I hope that International Women’s Day can be a time to launch or renew interest in the critical importance of gender diversity for the sake of not just your own organization’s future, but for our collective future. Man or woman, the pay-offs of a balanced workforce are equal.



GSDM Daniel Johnston Mural FinalsmOne of the great things about the holiday season is surprises, especially surprises for the kick-ass city you get to call home. When we were thinking about what to do for our holiday card this year, we decided we wanted to give back to Austin. We wanted to play Santa. So we gifted the city of Austin a custom Daniel Johnston mural, kicking off the season of giving with a bang. Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell formally accepted the mural, located at Austin institution Nau’s Enfield Drug on West Lynn, in a spiffy ceremony alongside Austin art (and hamburger! And milkshake!) aficionados and our own CEO Duff Stewart.


Recently the GSD&M Women’s Group hosted an inspiring presentation by Christy Pipkin, co-founder of the Nobelity project (her husband, Turk, is the other co-founder). Christy shared stories about the Nobelity Project’s work partnering with communities and telling stories, from building schools in rural Kenya to planting trees in Texas.The Nobelity Project’s work is extremely inspiring, but what really resonated with me was something Christy said about a simple word:When Christy talked about her approach to solving problems, she told us she’s a seeker of the “why.” (more…)