Smokey Bear turns 73 and introduces new anti-wildfire campaign

Smokey Bear turns 73-years-old today, and the old bear is sticking to his catch phrase in a new campaign to prevent forest fires.

In honor of the bear’s birthday, the Ad Council, the US Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters have introduced new digital-first videos and artwork inspired by beloved Smokey Bear posters to raise awareness of lesser known wildfire starts in an effort to decrease human-caused wildfires.

The new artwork was created by Brian Edward Miller, Evan Hecox, Janna Mattia and Victoria Ying, portraying Smokey Bear in each of their unique styles.

FCB West has developed pro bono public service announcements for Smokey Bear, the longest-running public service advertising campaign in US history, since his birth in 1944. Three videos show groups of people barbecuing at a park, having a campfire, and burning debris in their yard, respectively. In each, Smokey enters with his shovel and helps the humans extinguish their blazes properly and safely, tagged with “Only YOU can prevent wildfires!”

The videos and new artwork will be supported by an extensive social media program, including Smokey Bear’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“We’re thrilled to continue to evolve Smokey Bear’s beloved look and digital presence, while harkening back to the campaign’s beginning in the 1940s when we all fell in love with him. FCB has worked on this campaign for 73 years, representing the longest pro bono agency partnership in US history, and these new videos and artwork beautifully extend Smokey’s message of personal responsibility,” shared Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council.

Added Joe Oh, chief executive officer and president FCB West: “Smokey Bear has long been synonymous with wildfire prevention education and the great outdoors. This new digital campaign unexpectedly brings Smokey Bear out of the woods and into engaging and relatable interactions with people. This evolution in the iconic figure of Smokey Bear brings him closer to a younger audience and further cements his reputation as wildfire prevention’s most loveable spokesperson.”

Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of wildfire prevention since August 9, 1944. Although progress has been made, wildfires remain one of the most critical environmental issues affecting the US. On average, nearly nine out of 10 wildfires nationwide today are caused by people. In addition to the causes depicted in the new PSAs, the main causes of wildfire include campfires or warming fires being left unattended or improperly extinguished, debris burning on windy days, improper discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors, according to a release.

“It’s always wildfire season somewhere in the United States, and State Foresters experience first-hand the many causes of wildfires beyond abandoned campfires—improper burning of debris, dumping hot ashes, and others. The new Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention Campaign’s creative elements will help state forestry agencies continue to educate the public in an effort to help reduce the number of human-caused wildfires,” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester and president of the National Association of State Foresters.

The Ad Council will distribute the new videos and artwork across Smokey Bear’s social media channels as well as smokeybear.com and the new Spanish language website smokeybear.com/es.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle