Washington, D.C., June 30, 2009 — 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."