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Smokey Bear Celebrates 70th Birthday and Reminds Americans ... "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires"

U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council honor iconic PSA figure with Washington, D.C. birthday celebration, Instagram campaign and a re-launched zip code

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Smokey Bear, the icon featured in the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history, turns 70 years old this Saturday, August 9, 2014. Created in 1944 by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council -- Smokey Bear, along with his trademark, "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" -- has helped reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires from 22 million in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million annually today.   

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To commemorate Smokey Bear's seven decades of impact, the U.S. Forest Service will be hosting a birthday party in Washington, D.C. at the USDA Whitten Patio from 1pm- 3pm ET on August 8. USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon, New Jersey State Forester, Lynn Fleming and Smokey Bear himself will be in attendance for the festivities.

"Smokey Bear is part of the fabric of our lives, and his presence at this time is even more important as wildfire seasons grow longer," said Chief Tidwell. "It is an honor to celebrate a figure that has inspired millions of Americans and continue to communicate his message. We look forward to continuing his legacy for years to come."

Smokey Bear was first created during World War II out of fear that enemy shelling would cause forest fires out west while most firefighters were busy overseas. By 1952, Smokey's popularity had grown so large that he was taken out of public domain, protected under U.S. federal law and was given his own zip code as a place to receive and collect fan mail. That zip code, 20252, re-launched this summer in celebration of his 70 years.

Actor Sam Elliott, known for movie roles in Roadhouse, The Big Lebowski, and Tombstone, has served as the voice of Smokey Bear since 2008 and coincidentally shares the same birthday, turning 70 years old as well on August 9th.

"I'm proud to help celebrate Smokey Bear's 70th birthday and the extraordinary impact his wildfire prevention campaign has had on our country," said Elliott. "Living in Southern California, I have seen firsthand the devastation that wildfires can have on communities, and it reminds all of us about the importance of Smokey's message of personal responsibility."

Since launch of the campaign, the Wildfire Prevention public service advertising (PSAs) have run exclusively in time and space donated by the media. In the last seven decades, that equates to more than $2 billion worth of media support, with research showing that his is recognized by 96 percent of U.S. adults.

"From the first PSA in 1944, Smokey Bear has been integral to the fabric of Ad Council as well as American culture," said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of Ad Council. "As our culture has shifted over the past 70 years so has Smokey with his engaging online presence today appealing to an entirely new generation of Americans."

"Wildfire prevention efforts are happening all over the United States on all types of forest ownerships. Every citizen can do their part to help Smokey, foresters, and wildland firefighters protect forests—simply take precautions to make sure all fires are cold before leaving them unattended," said Lynn E. Fleming, New Jersey State Forester and a member of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention. "People who use fire carelessly are the number one cause of forest fires here in New Jersey, as in much of the country."

This past April, the campaign released new PSAs to commemorate Smokey's 70 years. Created pro bono by FCB West, the new TV, web, print, radio and outdoor ads show outdoor lover celebrating Smokey's 70 years of service by thanking him with a hug. This is an extension of the last round of PSAs where Smokey rewards those that take steps to help prevent wildfires by giving them a hug; viewers can participate online using #SmokeyBearHug. In recent years, Smokey has expanded his digital presence, cultivating robust communities to communicate his wildfire prevention messaging. In addition to his website,, Smokey also has a large following on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for more information about wildfire prevention.

"Seventy years marks a long and successful run for any advertising campaign," said Eric Springer, chief creative officer of FCB West. "Smokey Bear has evolved with each generation and continues to resonate with a broad audience. We are honored to be a part of his legacy."

Celebrations continue online, including a digital birthday card allowing users to leave a congratulatory message or picture. Beginning this week, sponsored posts will also run on Instagram, featuring new photographs from Smokey incorporating images of fire safety actions. Fans and followers are encouraged to share their memories and well-wishes for Smokey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #SmokeyBday, or giving their own #SmokeyBearHug.

U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service is the agency responsible for overseeing the use of Smokey Bear in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad 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.

National Association of State Foresters
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 U.S. Forest Service, State Foresters are committed to the continued delivery of Smokey Bear's message of personal responsibility in wildfire protection.

The Ad Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or view our PSAs on YouTube.

With more than 140 years of communications expertise, FCB's worldwide network spans 150 offices in 90 countries, with over 8,000 people, and is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE:IPG). For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@FCBglobal) and Facebook (FCB Global).


Happy 70th Birthday Smokey!


Girl Scout (2014)


Smokey Infographic (2014)

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SOURCE The Ad Council

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