Published on .

April 23, 2001

By Alice Z. Cuneo

SAN FRANCISCO ( -- One of America's oldest advertising icons has turned to crime.

In new spot, a crime scene body outline marks where a deer died in a forest fire.

Smokey the Bear, a friendly cartoon character based on a real bear that was rescued from a forest fire, has been seen for the past 56 years in a series of public service announcements cautioning that "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires."

But the latest spots in the Ad Council's public service campaign cut between a group of urban campers enjoying a few marshmallows over an open fire and police tape at a murder scene.

'People like you'
In this case, the victims are not the campers but a deer and other forest animals. A voice-over notes, "Every year thousands are senselessly killed by people with no criminal record at all. People like you." The tagline is now "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires," a nod to the increasing recreational time spent by urban dwellers in national parks and other preserves.

David Heise, vice president, group creative director, at True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, Southern California, Irvine, said the new take on the old icon is a method of moving the target audience from children to adults.

"It is an attempt to contemporize Smokey," he said, adding, however, that numerous educational efforts using the original Smokey will continue in schools.

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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