FCB West Celebrates Smokey Bear’s 70th Anniversary

By Erik Oster 

This August marks the 70th anniversary of Smokey Bear (apparently Smokey the Bear is a misnomer and we’ve all been saying it wrong). First created by FCB West in partnership with U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council in 1944, the Wildfire Prevention campaign is the longest running, and one of the most successful, PSA campaigns in America. 96 percent of the U.S. adult population recognize Smokey Bear, while 70 percent can recall Smokey’s “Only you can prevent forest fires” tagline without prompting.

“Few advertising icons have become as much a part of the American vernacular as Smokey Bear,” said Peggy Conlon, soon-to-be-retired president & CEO of the Ad Council. “Smokey’s persistent popularity from generation to generation is not only a testament to the quality of work done on his behalf pro bono by FCB, but also ensures that his legacy will be one that results in continued impact in the area of wildfire prevention.”


For Smokey’s 70th birthday, FCB West worked with Butcher Editorial to create two new PSAs (running in both 30 and 15 second versions) that celebrate Smokey’s milestone, while still spreading his message of forest fire prevention. In one of the spots (above) a group of children and park rangers bring Smokey Bear a birthday cake. Seeing only the fire hazard of the candles, Smokey reaches for a bucket of water, but thankfully one of the children has the presence of mind to blow them out. In another 30-second PSA, which really ups the creepiness factor, Smokey sneaks up on a man to inform him of a fire hazard. Both spots end with Smokey rewarding fire safety prevention with a bear hug.

Each of the PSAs directs viewers to www.SmokeyBear.com where they can sign a wildfire prevention pledge, learn safety tips, and access a wealth of current and past Smokey content. In addition to broadcast, the campaign includes radio, print, outdoor and digital PSAs, as well as a social initiative encouraging people to post their own #SmokeyBearHug. The Ad Council will be responsible for distributing the new PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide this month, running in advertising time and space that is entirely donated by the media.