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Don't Mess with Texas

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The phrase Don’t Mess with Texas is a slogan for the Texas Department of Transportation, and was developed to reduce littering on Texas roadways used as part of a statewide advertising campaign in 1986. The slogan was created by the Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M, which handled the campaign until 1998.

 

The phrase was prominently shown on road signs on major highways, as well as in television, radio and print advertisements. The campaign is credited with reducing litter on Texas highways 72% between 1986 and 1990.

 

More than its immediate success at reducing litter, however, the slogan became a Texas cultural phenomenon and the slogan has been appropriated by the citizens of Texas for general use. Though it appears on countless items of tourist paraphernalia, the phrase is actually a federally registered trademark; the department has tried at times to enforce its trademark rights, with limited success. The slogan is a frequently cited example of Texan cultural elitism.

 

Twenty years after its introduction, the success and popularity of "Don’t Mess with Texas" has earned it a spot among the best advertising slogans ever. "Don’t Mess with Texas" has been awarded a plaque on the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame and a place in the Advertising Hall of Fame, a distinction given to only two slogans annually.

Don’t Mess with Texas is also the official motto of the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas.

 

History

The media campaign, created in 1985, premiered its first television advertisement, featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn, at the 50th Annual Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1986. Since then, numerous musicians, athletes, celebrities and other famous Texans have appeared in "Don't Mess with Texas" radio and television public service announcements, including:

Lance Armstrong

Asleep at the Wheel

Marcia Ball

Joe Ely

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

George Foreman

Tish Hinojosa

Los Lonely Boys

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Lyle Lovett

Matthew McConaughey

Willie Nelson

LeAnn Rimes

Shamu & the Texas Tuxedos

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Jerry Jeff Walker

 

Unauthorized use of the trademark

The Department of Transportation has sent cease and desist letters to several organizations regarding their unauthorized use of the trademark phrase.

 

The University of Texas at Austin continues selling T-shirts and chocolate coins incorporating the phrase after being contacted by the organization.

 

The department attempted to block the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League from the sale of "Don't Mess With Texas Women" T-shirts, but was unsuccessful.

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