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'Don't mess with Texas' named top ad slogan

Austin agency rounded up 400,000 votes for famed anti-litter slogan.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, September 29, 2006

The most famous advertising slogan to come out of Texas certainly lived up to its name.

"Don't mess with Texas" won a national advertising slogan contest today, beating out 25 other slogans such as Nike's "Just do it" and the Ad Council's "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."

The winner was selected through an "American Idol"-style online voting drive that started in June and ended Thursday. The contest was part of Advertising Week, the industry's annual event in New York.

Thanks to an aggressive get-out-the vote drive and e-mail campaign sponsored by GSD&M, the Austin agency that originated the slogan, and Tuerff-Davis EnviroMedia Inc., which runs the campaign now, the slogan won by a landslide, with more than 400,000 votes.

The slogan will be displayed on banners along a block of New York's Madison Avenue and will be permanently recognized in the Advertising Icon Museum in Kansas City, Mo., which is expected to open in 2008.

"It is pretty incredible that 'Don't mess with Texas,' a state agency slogan, managed to edge out sexy Madison Avenue advertising slogans like 'Just do it,' " said Valerie Davis, CEO of EnviroMedia.

The idea was to get as many Texans as possible to vote, Davis said. The agency enlisted help from the University of Texas Alumni Association and did an online campaign with the latest "Don't mess with Texas" commercial, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong. It had a link attached so people could vote.

Meanwhile, the "Don't mess with Texas" account came up for review during the summer. EnviroMedia got to keep its high-profile client for another three years.

"Don't mess With Texas" is an anti-litter campaign run by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The famous slogan was created by Tim McClure, a co-founder of GSD&M. GSD&M held the "Don't mess with Texas" account until 1998, when it gave up the account.

McClure said he thought of the slogan during an early morning walk around his neighborhood the day before his agency was going to make its final pitch to the Texas Department of Transportation.

At first, McClure said, agency officials were cool to the idea and wanted to change it to the more polite "Please, don't mess with Texas."

But, McClure said the commanding "Don't mess with Texas" won out. It really got into the DNA of Texans, he said, and was an instant sensation when the first commercial, featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan, aired during the 1986 Super Bowl.

Twenty years later, the slogan has become ingrained in pop culture, emblazoned on T-shirts and bumper stickers and invoked by athletes and politicians.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Don't mess with Texas," GSD&M founders Roy Spence and McClure wrote a book about how it was created and the various advertising campaigns surrounding it.

lrockwell@statesman.com; 445-3819

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