The Ad Council is celebrating the 70th birthday of Smokey the Bear Aug. 9. Smokey is the star of the longest-running media public service campaign in U.S. history, says the Council, which puts donated airtime and ad talent together to create iconic PSAs from Rosie the Riveter to the crash test dummies to the fire-preventing bear.
The celebration includes a party at the USDA on Friday and an online birthday card for Web surfers to sign.
According to the council, the acreage burned annually by wildfires has decreased from 22 million in 1944 to 6.7 million today, thanks in part to over $2 billion in donated airtime to the campaign. Smokey has a 96% recognition rate with U.S. adults, says the Council.
According to the council, the campaign was launched during World War II out of fears that there could be shelling in a home front way that could start forest fires in the West while firefighters were overseas fighting in the war.
Sam Elliott (Road House, The Big Lebowski, Tombstone) has been the voice of Smokey since 2008.