- Smokey Bear, the advertising icon of the U.S. Forest Service, is being reimagined for his 75th birthday as an animated emoji in three public service announcements (PSAs) that use facial recognition and voice tech, per an announcement. The campaign expands on Smokey's "only you can prevent wildfires" catchphrase with voice-overs from celebrities Stephen Colbert, Al Roker and Jeff Foxworthy.
- The campaign asks people to "listen to their inner Smokey Bear" and share stories on social media around why they enjoy the outdoors, Susan Credle, chief creative officer at ad agency FCB Global, said in the announcement. Social media users can follow Smokey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and keep up with the campaign conversation through hashtags #SmokeyBear75 and #OnlyYou.
- Smokey Bear is part of the longest-running PSA in U.S. history. The Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council collaborated on the anniversary campaign, which will run across channels in donated time and space.
An animoji version of Smokey Bear likely will resonate with a younger generation of Americans who have grown up using emoji to communicate on their mobile devices. Animoji are a recent feature that lets mobile users record messages through characters that match their facial gestures, powered by a smartphone camera.
Apple introduced animoji with the rollout of the iPhone X nearly two years ago, and ran several ad campaigns that played upon the popular fad of animoji karaoke, including two spots that aired during last year's Grammy Awards. Rival electronics maker Samsung climbed aboard the bandwagon by introducing its similar AR Emoji feature on Galaxy S9 smartphones last year, suggesting that mobile users respond positively to the interactive emoji features. The popularity of animoji also has led third-party software developers to create apps with similar face-recording features.
Another key challenge for the Forest Service's latest campaign was to freshen up Smokey Bear's message after decades of saying the same line. This year's focus on why people should be careful with fire — not just demonstrating how to stay safe, as a video campaign highlighted two years ago — aims for a stronger emotional push by showing what is at stake. The message is that most wildfires are caused by people who unwittingly destroy places they enjoy visiting, a messaging strategy that will likely resonate with viewers by creating emotional connections around personal safety and environmental sustainability.
By including a social media element to this year's wildfire-prevention campaign, the Forest Service can help to extend the reach of its PSAs among socially conscious mobile users. In a similar fashion, Burger King ran a PSA campaign to observe National Bullying Prevention Month in October 2017 that went viral on social media, with 1.26 million views on YouTube during its first week, per PRDaily.
Previously, the Ad Council released a mobile messaging initiative about the consequences of underage drinking and driving via a story-driven chat experience on Facebook Messenger. Social media sharing is especially popular among younger adults, 92% of whom own a smartphone and 85% of whom use social media, per Pew Research Center, suggesting that the recent mobile-focused Smokey Bear effort could resonate with younger consumers that may not already be familiar with the mascot's iconic message.