For more than 28 years, Don’t mess with Texas® has been dedicated to educating Texans about the real cost of litter.
Inspired by true Texas pride, we go to great lengths to keep our state litter-free with award-winning ads, statewide road tours, education programs, and contests.
Don’t mess with Texas evolved from an extensive public education program conducted by the Texas Highway Commission. Using in-depth research to identify and reach the state’s worst offenders, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) launched the now-iconic campaign in 1986. Don’t mess with Texas partners with Adopt-A-Highway to make up TxDOT’s litter prevention programs and, as a grassroots partner with Keep Texas Beautiful, it co-hosts the state’s single largest one-day cleanup event, the annual Trash-Off.
Don’t mess with Texas has been a great success thanks to our iconic red, white and blue trash cans and the help of fellow Texans who have spread the word about keeping our highways free of litter. From the first TV ad featuring blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan to classic spots headlined by Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, LeAnn Rimes, and most recently Kevin Fowler and Jack Ingram, Texans have been reminded what Don’t mess with Texas really means.
Whether the message appears on a billboard, your TV, or computer screen, we’re proud of our advertising. Not only has it successfully captured the Texan spirit and garnered exposure for the campaign, it’s also helped keep tons of litter off Texas roads. But with half of us STILL tossing trash, there’s still plenty more to do. And you can bet Don’t mess with Texas will be there, litter bags and all.
Don’t mess with Texas Timeline
2015: Willie Nelson returns to the campaign with his 1968 rendition of “Beautiful Texas”. He appears alongside celebrities taking selfies for the TV and digital video campaign, Small Trash Makes a Big Mess.
2013: Don’t mess with Texas reinvigorates the brand by returning to the original logo and reintroducing the iconic red, white, and blue trashcans as a memorable and recognizable symbol of the campaign highlighted by Texas musicians Bob Schneider and Grupo Fantasma. Social media profiles in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram become an integral part of the campaign.
2011: Don’t mess with Texas celebrates its 25th anniversary with a feature article, “Litter Did We Know,” an article in Texas Monthly about its remarkable success. Don’t mess with Texas also hosts a competition that asks viewers to pick their favorite TV commercial from the campaign’s 25 years. Congratulations to the Confederate Air Force for coming out on top, garnering 600,000 votes!
2009: Don’t mess with Texas launches new campaigns, including an online reality series of WEbisodes, an online video contest called Car2Can, and a first-ever Litter Force Contest.
2008: “Top Design” host Todd Oldham designs free Don’t mess with Texas litterbags.
2007: The Litter Force blasts into 45 elementary schools, educating students in order to prevent littering behavior. Research suggests that children who have seen their parents litter are more likely to do the same.
2006: Don’t mess with Texas wins the Advertising Walk of Fame contest for America’s favorite slogan, beating well-known campaigns like “Just Do It” and “Got Milk?” by a 400,000-vote landslide. The campaign returns to the Cotton Bowl to launch 20th-anniversary TV commercials featuring an array of well-known Texans.
2005: The Litter Force superheroes are born! With the goal of creating a litter-free generation, Litter Force tours elementary schools to educate first graders how to “Blast the Trash!”. Research shows that litter has dropped 33 percent since 2001, and 71 percent of Texans understand Don’t mess with Texas means “don’t litter”.
2004: TV and radio spots titled “Excuses” prove that there’s no good excuse for litter, and even Jon Stewart and The Daily Show notice the campaign.
2003: The campaign goes 3-D with eye-popping “It’s Take-Out, Not Toss-Out” billboards, calling out the fast-food litter problem with larger-than-life soda cups and curly fries. The first Don’t mess with Texas Road Tour travels 5,000 miles around the state to educate Texans about litter prevention.
2002: The “Road Karma” PSA makes its debut.
2001: Research reveals that roadside litter has dropped 52 percent since 1995, as new TV ads personify Texas with the question “If your mother were Texas, would you still litter?”
2000: Screen hero Matthew McConaughey looks for litterers in new TV ad.
1999: The first tobacco litter PSA, featuring “Jimmy the Butt Collector,” airs.
1998: Texas sweetheart LeAnn Rimes stars in an ad singing her hit song “Blue” as new research declares that 16–24 year olds are Gen L: Generation Litterer. A full 96 percent of Texans have heard of Don’t mess with Texas”, but only 61 percent know it means “don’t litter”.
1996: Longhorns and talking armadillos discuss the litter problem in Texas. The TV ad is later used by The University of Texas to promote the Longhorns’ Don’t Litter campaign.
1995: Austin singer/songwriter Ian Moore blasts trash with his electric guitar beams.
1994: Cowboys recite poems about the beauty of Texas and how litter ruins the picture.
1993: The PSA “Basuritas” shows how little pieces of litter add up to a big mess.
1992: The Tyler Longriders call out litterers as animals, and “Creature from the Texas Coast” airs to educate viewers about litter on our coastline.
1990: Lyle Lovett sings “Keep your trash off the road” and The Texas Tornadoes sing “What were you thinking when you were messing with Texas?” in two popular commercials.
1985: Don’t mess with Texas is born, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).