Smokey Bear celebrates his 65th birthday and returns to remind Americans

Smokey Bear stars in new CG-animated PSAs and appears on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube in time for July 4th.

WASHINGTON—The Advertising Council joined today with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to celebrate Smokey Bear’s 65th birthday and provide critical information to Americans about wildfire prevention. The television, radio, print and online PSAs are being distributed prior to the July 4th holiday, a time when many people go camping, have outdoor BBQs and light fireworks.

Since his “birth” on August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America’s forests. His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires, from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 7 million today. However, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical environmental issues affecting our country. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, on average, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people. The principle causes are campfires left unattended, trash burning on windy days, arson, careless discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors.

Created pro bono by ad agency Draftfcb, the same volunteer agency that has created work for the campaign since 1944, the new PSAs specifically target young adults who live in the wildland/urban interface-people who are likely to be casual campers, hikers, or mountain bikers -to remind them that Smokey is counting on them to prevent human-caused wildfires. The new PSAs seek to continue to decrease the number of human-caused wildfires and one new TV spot is designed specifically to celebrate Smokey’s birthday. The ads feature CG-animation and encourage young adults to “Get Your Smokey On” – that is, to become like Smokey and speak up when others are acting carelessly.

“Smokey Bear is the nation’s symbol for wildfire prevention and his important message has been communicated to generations of Americans during the past sixty five years,” said Helene Cleveland, Fire Prevention Program Manager, U.S. Forest Service. “Smokey’s enduring message is as critical today as it was when he was introduced in 1944 and I am confident that our new PSAs will continue to raise awareness about wildfire prevention issues.”

The PSAs direct audiences to visit the campaign’s website,, where they can take a pledge and learn more about wildfire prevention. Sections of the website, including the historical overview of the campaign, or “Smokey’s Journey,” and the kids section of the site “Smokey Kids” have recently been re-designed by Cannery Agency. In addition to the new PSAs and website, Smokey Bear now has profile pages on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to further the reach of his messages to young adults:

“Smokey Bear is the center of the longest-running and one of the most successful public service campaigns in U.S. history,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our Wildfire Prevention campaign has helped children and adults throughout the country understand their role in preventing wildfires and these new PSAs and online components will continue to have a significant impact.”

Since 1944, Smokey Bear has been communicating his well-known message, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” In 2001, the term ‘Wildfires’ was introduced to include all unwanted, unplanned fires in natural areas such as grass fires or brush fires. Smokey has been rated one of the most recognizable figures in America, ranking alongside Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus. Smokey is recognized by 97 percent of adults and 3 out of 4 adults are able to recall “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” without prompting, according to an Ad Council tracking survey.

“Smokey is an American icon and we are honored to be part of continuing his legacy and furthering his message. Thanks to advances in technology and CG-animation, we were able to bring Smokey Bear to life in a realistic way, starting with launch of the “Get your Smokey on” campaign last year,” said Hilary Hamer, SVP, Group Management Director at Draftfcb Orange County. “We’re always looking to ensure that Smokey’s message is not only still current, but relevant to our target audience.”

The Ad Council will be distributing the new PSAs to media outlets nationwide this week. Per the organization’s model, the PSAs are airing and running in advertising time that is donated by the media. Over the last 65 years, media outlets have donated more than $1 billion in time and space for the Wildfire Prevention campaign.

The USDA Forest Service is the agency responsible for overseeing the use of Smokey Bear in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council. The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands for the American Public. Its mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The National Association of State Foresters is comprised of the directors of forestry agencies from the fifty states, eight U.S. territories and associated states, and the District of Columbia. Through public-private partnership, NASF seeks to advance sustainable forestry, conservation, and protection of forest lands and their associated resources. As a partner with the USDA Forest Service, State Foresters are committed to the continued delivery of Smokey Bear’s message of personal responsibility in wildfire protection.

Draftfcb is a modern agency model for clients seeking creative, accountable marketing programs that build business and deliver a high Return on IdeasTM. With more than 136 years of combined expertise, the company has its roots in both consumer advertising and behavioral, data-driven direct marketing. The agency is the first global, behavior-based, holistic marketing communications organization to operate against a single P&L, and it places equal emphasis on creativity and accountability. For more information, visit

The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies in issue areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well-being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.

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