Happy 65th Birthday, Smokey Bear!

Icon Celebrates With New PSA Campaign

By Published on .

Smokey Bear is celebrating his 65th birthday in a series of new PSAs from the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters in conjunction with the Ad Council. The TV, radio, print and online campaign is being launched in time for the July 4 holiday to raise awareness among people lighting campfires and outdoor BBQs and setting off fireworks.

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The pro bono campaign was created by DraftFCB, the successor to Smokey creator Foote, Cone & Belding, which has worked with the Ad Council to tell people "Only you can prevent forest fires" since 1944. The term "wildfire" was introduced in 2001 to include all unwanted, unplanned fires in natural areas.

Since his "birth" on Aug. 9, 1944, Smokey Bear has become a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America's forests. According to the Ad Council, his message has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires from about 22 million in 1944 to an average 7 million today. Of those fires, nine out of 10 are caused by people. At the same time, Smokey has become one of the most recognizable figures in the U.S., ranking with Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus, according to the Ad Council. Smokey is recognized by 97% of adults, and 75% can recall "Only you can prevent wildfires" without prompting, according to an Ad Council tracking survey.

The new campaign focuses on decreasing the number of human-caused wildfires, with ads encouraging people to "Get your Smokey on." The PSAs direct audiences to visit the campaign's website, smokeybear.com. Smokey Bear also has profile pages on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to extend 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," Peggy Conlon, president-CEO of the Ad Council, said in announcing the new campaign. "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."

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