‘Iron Eyes’ Revisited

NEW YORK Keep America Beautiful, the nonprofit community improvement group best known for its ads from the 1970s showing Iron Eyes Cody with a tear rolling down his cheek, today introduces a new campaign from Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The campaign features Web videos intended to go viral, a game that teaches players what can and cannot be recycled as well as banner ads. In a change from its traditionally serious ads, the campaign is humorous and slightly sarcastic.

At the heart of it are three cartoon videos that introduce the main character, KAB Man, and the assorted villains he faces such as Litter Fast-Food Wrapper, who actually raps, albeit poorly, and Improper Recycling Habits. Along the way he acquires a sidekick, Molly Sims, swimsuit model.

As a way of introducing younger viewers to Iron Eyes Cody, the crying Native American (who was actually not of tribal descent), KAB Man and the viewer at one point watch the commercial from the 1970s.

KAB Man is a dry, slightly awkward hero prone to outrageous suggestions. For example, when told by the cartoon version of G. Raymond Empson, president of Keep America Beautiful, that he needs to get tough on non-recyclers, his suggestion is to “punch them in the face.” Empson’s character then says that perhaps he “reel it in a bit.”

The organization is kicking off the effort in New York’s Times Square, where the three five-minute films will be shown on nine billboards.

“We looked at ways of freshening up the brand and having some fun with a brand that had gotten a little stale,” said Rob Wallace, vp, communications at the Stamford, Conn.-based organization. “For most people if you’re younger than 37, there’s no connection to the brand or organization.”

The original crying Indian national ad appeared in 1971, and it was brought back briefly in 1998 in regional campaigns.

“They hadn’t had a signature ad campaign since the 1970s and they wanted to bring Keep America Beautiful and their mission into the limelight and relate to the next generation,” said Nat Lawlor, copywriter at Goodby in San Francisco. “They wanted to reach a younger generation, so we decided to do Web films and a game. We tried to bring some of the humor of the films into the game while at same time keeping it educational.”