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Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!

News Release from the Ad Council, the National Association of State Foresters and the United States Forest Service:

Famous Ad Slogan Updated in Response to Last Year's Wildfire Outbreaks

WASHINGTON, DC, April 23, 2001 - After 54 years of informing Americans that "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," one of America's best-known advertising icons, Smokey Bear, has a new message: "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires."

The new tagline was created by The Advertising Council, along with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), in response to last year's rampant outbreak of wildfires, and in an effort to make Smokey's message of forest conservation more contemporary.

Since 1944, Smokey Bear has been a national symbol of forest fire prevention not only in America, but also in Canada and Mexico, where he is known as Simon. This public service advertising (PSA) campaign - produced by The Advertising Council, sponsored by the USDA Forest Service and NASF, and created by volunteer advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) - is the longest running PSA campaign in U.S. history. Between 1990 and 2000, Smokey Bear PSAs have received more than $481 million in donated advertising time and space. The campaign is also listed at number 26 on Advertising Age's Top 100 Campaigns of the Century (March 1999), along with such commercial advertising giants as Campbell's Soup, Burger King and Budweiser.

While the acreage of burned forest has decreased from more than 22 million acres per year at the campaign's inception to less than 4 million acres per year today, America has experienced a marked increase in wildfires during the past few years.

"Even with all of the success the Smokey Bear campaign has achieved during it's nearly 55 years, wildfires still claim an area of forest equivalent to the size of New Hampshire each year," said Peggy Conlon, Ad Council President and CEO. "Although the ads created by FCB for the Smokey campaign have always been top notch, we thought it was time to revise, refresh and re-awaken Smokey's message to the American public."

Current Forest Service research suggests that the main causes of human-related wildfires are unattended campfires, trash burning on windy days, careless discarding of smoking materials, barbecue coals, and operating outdoor machinery that is not equipped with spark arrestors. As a result, the Forest Service and NASF have signed on for a three-year "refreshment" of the campaign, with a shift in the campaign's target audience to adults who are casual campers, hikers and bikers, as well as to urban adults who live near large areas of vegetated land.

The revised slogan comes at a time of relatively low wildfire awareness. According to research conducted by the Ad Council, wildfire awareness is not a real priority, and most adults feel that they, personally, could never be the cause of a wildfire, despite admitting to occasional carelessness. On the other hand, public awareness of Smokey Bear is high. Market research shows that in terms of recognition, Smokey ranks alongside Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse.

"This is definitely not your traditional Smokey Bear public service campaign," said David Heise, vice-president, group creative director at FCB Southern California, Los Angeles. "We used impactful and edgy imagery to grab the attention of the adult audience and illustrate the sharp contrast between a happy camp scene and the devastating result."

The history of Smokey Bear dates back to 1942, when the USDA Forest Service asked the Ad Council, then known as The War Advertising Council, to help inform citizens that they could help the war effort by doing what they could to prevent forest fires. The earliest forest fire prevention work did not yet utilize Smokey, but rather another recognizable character, Disney's Bambi.

It was not until Aug. 2, 1944 that the Ad Council and the Forest Service introduced a bear as the campaign symbol. The first Smokey Bear ad, created by Foote, Cone & Belding, which has worked pro bono on the Smokey Bear campaign for nearly 60 years, was unveiled in 1945. The campaign's original tagline was "Smokey Says - Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires." The now infamous catch phrase "Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires," was introduced in 1947.

The new PSA, with its updated slogan, has been distributed to media outlets nationwide to coincide with the beginning of wildfire season, which begins in the Northeast and Southeast regions in late April, and in the Western region in June.

The USDA Forest Service is the agency responsible for overseeing the use of Smokey Bear in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council. Human caused fire remains the major cause of wildfires across the county. Based on the last 10 years, more than 102,000 wildfire start each year through human carelessness while only 13,000 fires are started by lightning. The Smokey Bear Campaign is a critical tool specially designed to ask for every citizen's conscientious commitment to reduce the expensive resource losses and high suppression costs associated with wildfires. In 1999, more than $500 million was spent suppressing wildfires.

With billings in excess of $450 million, FCB Southern California employs more than 250 people and has offices in Los Angeles and Orange County. Major clients include Hilton Hotels, Taco Bell Corporation, TaylorMade Golf, Kawasaki Motors Corp., Mattel Toy, Inc., Western Digital, Vans, Sunkist, Hong Kong Tourism Board and the United States Forest Service. FCB Worldwide, founded in 1873, is the largest advertising agency brand in the United States, and the 5th largest agency brand globally with approximate billings of $8.8 billion. FCB is the largest agency brand of True North Communications Inc., (NYSE: TNO) one of the world's leading advertising and communications holding companies. FCB Southern California is among the agency's major offices.

The Advertising Council is a private, nonprofit organization, which has been the leading producer of public service communications programs in the United States since 1942. The Council supports campaigns that benefit children, families and communities. The communications programs are national in scope and have generated strong, measurable results. Ad Council campaigns, such as "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk," "Take A Bite Out of Crime," and "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste," have helped save lives and resources, educate the public about issues and concerns of the day, and make America a healthier country in which to live. In 1999, Ad Council campaigns received more than $1.2 billion in donated media time and space. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit our Web site at www.adcouncil.org.

The Official Smokey Bear Site

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