Smokey Bear Celebrates 80th Birthday with New PSA Honoring His Legacy of Wildfire Prevention

Ad Council InSites
Cover image for  article: Smokey Bear Celebrates 80th Birthday with New PSA Honoring His Legacy of Wildfire Prevention

To celebrate eight decades of Smokey Bear, the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Ad Council are releasing a new public service advertisement (PSA) paying homage to the legacy of the iconic wildfire prevention campaign. Featuring actor Brian Tyree Henry as the new voice of Smokey Bear, the nostalgic film highlights Smokey’s longstanding presence in American culture and critical message that reminds audiences “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

Since 1944, Smokey Bear’s wildfire prevention campaign has been singular in focus: to educate the American public on how to prevent unwanted human-caused wildfires through individual actions. Even after 80 years, his message is as important as ever, with nearly 9 out of 10 unwanted wildfires caused by humans.

Developed pro bono by FCB, the creative agency behind Smokey Bear since his 1944 introduction, “Decades” ushers viewers through time to experience the generational impact of Smokey’s empowering message. The film revisits five previous decades to consider some of Smokey’s important lessons, like how to safely build a fire, or what to do with hot coals, showing that we all invoke Smokey Bear and honor his legacy when we act responsibly in the outdoors to prevent unwanted wildfires.


“Smokey and his iconic message ‘only you can prevent wildfires’ has been heard and heeded by countless Americans for generations,” said Mandy Scott, USDA Forest Service National Wildfire Prevention Program Manager. “’Decades’ provides an iconic look at how that message has educated generations by revisiting his important lessons for preventing unwanted human caused wildfires.”

“The 1944 Smokey Bear campaign was born from a need to inform the public about our role in preventing wildfires. As the national wildfire crisis grows in severity, with each year bringing unprecedented wildfire activity to new states, taking significant tolls on resources, responders and our forest lands, the imperative of Smokey’s message has to grow right along with it,” shared Scott Phillips, South Carolina State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters. “Every person who Smokey’s message has touched is one more asset in the combat against catastrophic wildfire.”

“Smokey Bear and his iconic message have been welcomed into our homes and made a permanent fixture of American history and culture,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. That kind of legacy is only possible because of the continued innovation from FCB, NASF and the USDA Forest Service to keep Smokey relevant while his message remains consistent.”

While Smokey has evolved over the years – appearing on lunchboxes, stamps, social media, and even as an animated emoji, his “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,” message has withstood the test of time. This year, he is proud to add Brian Tyree Henry to the list of incredible celebrities, from Sam Elliot to Betty White, who have lent their voices to spread his wildfire prevention message. FCB New York’s vision to modernize the legendary Smokey Bear costume was brought to life by a team of artisans and engineers from special effects studio Alterian over a 16-week journey. It took four highly skilled puppeteers to operate the new suit, allowing Smokey’s iconic line to be delivered with no assistance from CGI.

“Smokey Bear is an American icon, and FCB New York could not be more proud to play a part in sharing his important message over the decades,” said Ida Gronblom, FBC New York’s Executive Creative Director. “For Smokey’s 80th birthday, we wanted to pay homage to his years of wildfire prevention education by taking a trip down memory lane, reminding everyone that although Smokey teaches wildfire prevention, only you can prevent wildfires.”

In addition to the “Decades” film, FCB collaborated with talented illustrator, Sam Gilbey, to develop vintage movie posters mirroring Smokey’s 50s, 70s and 80s decades. Best known for designing intricate cinematic posters, Gilbey portrays nostalgic versions of Smokey in each highlighting some of his prominent wildfire prevention tips. From campfire safety to properly securing tow chains, each poster uses timely aesthetics including character clothing, art style and colors to transport audiences back into each era. Through each masterful illustration, Smokey is featured as the protagonist of American culture’s wildfire prevention movie.

This campaign will be distributed across TV, radio, print, Out-Of-Home (OOH) and digital throughout the country and is an extension of the USDA Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters and Ad Council's ongoing partnership to prevent unintended human-caused wildfires where we live, work and play. Over the past 80 years, Smokey Bear has left his mark on American culture. In 2023, close to 80% of survey respondents correctly named Smokey Bear by name based on his image. In addition to high awareness of Smokey Bear, almost half of survey respondents indicated that they know a few tips related to preventing wildfires, which is a key goal of the campaign. In addition to the new work, Smokey will be celebrated throughout the year at national and local events, social media, brand partnerships and more. To learn more about wildfire prevention, visit, and follow Smokey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtags #SmokeyBear80 and #OnlyYou.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.