GSD&M Won’t ‘Mess With Texas’

The Texas Department of Transportation’s “Don’t mess with Texas” advertising campaign helped put GSD&M on the map and a fair amount of litter in trash cans over the years. The shop’s decision not to repitch should leave agencies in hot pursuit.
Doris Howdeshell, director of the department’s travel and information division, said an initial deadline for returning requests for proposals was extended to Feb. 20 after GSD&M declined to rebid. Howdeshell said she expects the incumbent agency’s absence to greatly increase the number of contenders pursuing the account.
In a letter to Howdeshell, GSD&M president Roy Spence said the shop concluded it was “time to pass the torch to another advertising agency.” He did not give a specific reason.
The size of the state contract–just $1.5 million annually–may explain why the agency, whose billings exceed $500 million, decided to pass.
A selection committee will sort through written proposals for about a week next month and select an as-yet-undetermined number of contenders. Those shops will make oral presentations in March, with a decision expected by April 15.
GSD&M’s contract expires at the end of March. The Austin, Texas, shop has serviced the account since 1985. GSD&M founding partner Tim McClure conceived the “Don’t mess with Texas” positioning.
Spence said the business was a “benchmark account” and yielded some of the agency’s finest creative work. Most notable of 25 television commercials produced by the agency were spots featuring Texas musicians like Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
During its tenure on the account, GSD&M secured $113 million in free television and radio public service airtime.
Howdeshell said the “Don’t mess with Texas” tagline reached a 96 percent awareness rating within the state in 1992.