Smokey Bear’s 70th Birthday Is Cause for Celebration—on Instagram

The U.S. Forest Service dives deeper into social media

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

The U.S. Forest Service is about to become one of the first federal organizations to run Instagram ads in the mobile-social app with a splash tomorrow to celebrate the 70th birthday of Smokey Bear.

The cause worked with The Ad Council to secure the ad space with the help of social agency HelpsGood. Since Smokey Bear first appeared in 1944, Ad Council efforts for the Forest Service have been backed by an estimated $2 billion in donated media.

The Forest Service’s new promos will show how to build and extinguish a campfire and run through August. A few weeks ago, The Ad Council visited Instagram’s headquarters in San Francisco to go over the campaign’s creative and some best practices for using the app.

"[Smokey Bear] is highly social, and you can find him on the largest channels, so Instagram has quickly emerged as one of those social channels, especially when connecting with a young demographic," said Michael Bellavia, CEO of HelpsGood. "It’s all about making sure that he’s part of that active conversation that’s going on, even if that conversation is going on through imagery."

In addition to the U.S. Forest Service, Instagram also donated ad space to nonprofit CharityWater in March.

Beyond the Instagram push, the Forest Service's campaign includes a Facebook app that enables Smokey fans to sign a digital birthday card. Also, an hour-long Twitter chat yesterday garnered close to a million impressions, according to Bellavia. Smokey Bear has roughly 300,000 Facebook "likes" and more than 25,000 Twitter and 800 Instagram followers. The icon also has a LinkedIn account and approximately 1,500 YouTube subscribers.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.